From The Gym To the Pool: The Benefits Of Swimming

Moving away from the gym for this post – swimming is a well known as a brilliant all-round full body exercise and workout. Recommended by many fitness experts and personal trainers, going for a swim benefits the body and the kind, and is fun as well.

Further, you can adapt your swim to your needs and preferences. You can pit yourself against the clock, and race through 30/40 laps as if competing for the Olympics, or go through 60/70 laps ad if preparing for a long distance, cross Channel swim. It also does not matter whether you are the graceful butterfly swimmer, the plodding backstroke swimmer, or the one perfecting your best doggy paddle; swimmers of all ability are seen in the pool.

Going for a regular session in the pool is good for your health, your fitness and can even help you lose weight. If you are nervous in the water, or a weak or inexperienced swimmer, it is s never too late to have lessons, or to improve. Most pools and centres have a wide range of classes for different ages and swimming abilities.

One of the many benefits of swimming regularly is that it may help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases in some people. The full body workout can also improve your overall wellbeing – both physical and mental.  Recent studies and reports highlight how swimming cuts men’s risk of dying early by about 50% when compared to runners, walkers and above all to those who don’t do any regular physical activity. The same studies found that regular swimming is also great for both sexes because the vigorous activity is highly likely to actually reduce stroke, heart disease and Type-2 Diabetes by about 535 cases in 100,000 people.

Long standing and often ignored NHS guidelines on health and exercise suggest that adults should do at least 30 minutes (preferably more) of moderate-intensity activity on five or more days a week. Swimming for 30-minutes at your local pool on one or more days of the week will count greatly towards that recommended weekly activity target. However, any amount of time exercising, regardless of how long or short, is good for your health and fitness.

Another of the numerous benefits of swimming is that whilst swimming the motions will take over and become automatic, allowing you to let your mind float away. Once you get into it, swimming can become almost like a meditative trance, and therefore a gear way to clear your mind. Similarly, swimming van help to de-stress after a long hard day for similar reasons. Swimming can offer a sense of mental wellbeing; something which can’t easily be measured but is anecdotally mentioned by thousands of participants in the recent studies and reports. It is that sense of wellbeing and mental clarity that can also bring great (mental and emotional) health to regular swimmers.

One significant reason why swimming is considered a great form of exercise is, amongst other things, swimming can often support up to 90% of the body’s weight in the water. Those who are overweight, have disabilities, or have sustained certainly significant injuries, can go swimming without putting so much strain on their bodies.

Further, swimming essentially gives you a full body workout. The motions of swimming use muscles in the core, chest, legs, back, shoulders and even hands. Indeed, if you swim for long and hard enough, you can create aerobic and anaerobic circuits and routines to greatly improve your cardiovascular fitness. According to swim coach Nikki Geelan swimming “is one of a few sports that covers the three S’s …. stamina, suppleness and strength… It’s not weight bearing so is good exercise for people with joint problems. It also works all of the major muscle groups in the body.”

There is a lot more to said in favour of swimming as a form of exercise – all of which are covered in Part 2, Swimming: Weight Loss, The Pool & Beyond.


Bicep Exercises That Are An Alternative To Curls

Whenever biceps, and bicep exercises, are mentioned, the first exercise – and the traditional go to get impressive biceps – that springs to mind are curls.

However, to improve your biceps, there are many other exercise that can be utilised, and which can be used to mix up your gym routine. Here are four great exercises for biceps that are a welcome alternative to curls.

Close Grip Chin Ups

Chin-ups can work your bicep muscles more effectively than pullup. Positioning your hands closer together shifts the focus of the exercise to your arms even more – and for even better results, strap some extra weights around your waist.

Chin ups, pull ups, and derivatives of those exercises are effective for biceps because the pulling motion targets the brachialis. This is a large muscle that lies right underneath the biceps. Developing this particular muscle pushes up the middle of your arm, and therefore develops the biceps. The pulling motion of chin ups and pull ups is one of the best ways to target the brachialis.

V Grip Pull Downs 

Using the lat pulldown machine, start by hooking on a V-grip attachment. Sit down with your torso upright and your arms straight. Next, grip the handles, ensuring your palms are facing each other, and steadily pull the bar to your chest, all the while keeping your elbows close to your body, and not moving your torso. Slowly return to the starting position.

Zercher Holds 

Adopt a standing position with your chest up and your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a barbell in the crook of your elbows, lacing your fingers together. Try to keep both arms parallel to the floor at a 90-degree angle, and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat the movement two more times, then rest.

Seated Cable Rows 

When working the muscles in your back, your biceps are automatically being developed without you realising. Here, seated cable rows are a good example. Start the exercise by using a V-grip attachment ensuring that your palms are facing each other. This will put some of the effort and emphasis on your forearms – and biceps. Proceed to row like you normally would, keeping your elbows tucked in, your knees slightly bent and your back straight.


And there you have it: four alternative exercises to develop your biceps without resorting to curls. Talking to a personal trainer at the gym, or member of gym staff, will help you to perform the exercises correctly and safely – and might give you alternative suggested exercises for biceps muscles.

Things To Consider About the Gym Before Arriving At The Gym

So you have decided to alter your lifestyle. You have decided to get fit and healthy, and have joined a gym. That is a great start – but before starting out on the spin machines and the weights, there are just a few things to consider and plan…

As mentioned, this is a lifestyle change; it is not just about going to the gym. For best effect and impact, a change in diet and nutrition is often advised, as are a few changes to your lifestyle overall. Such changes could be large or small, subtle or sweeping, all depending on your individual lifestyle.

Diet and nutrition play a very large part in any healthy, active lifestyle. After all, your body has to be properly fuelled and supported with balance of calories, fats and proteins. However, such matters of sports nutrition are for different posts!

A very important thing to think about early is one simple question; what do you want out of going to the gym? It may be a simple question – but the answer can be complex. After all, there are different regimes and workouts depending whether you want to lose fat, tone your body, put on muscle, improve stamina and so on. Each of those (and all the other many gaols and reasons to start at the gym) will often have different exercise and reps. For example, for fat loss many suggest 3 x 10 reps. To improve your core, crunches (of which there are several varieties) are always recommended. To gain muscle effectively, many advocate 8/12 reps, with sufficient rest in between reps and sets. The variations of exercises and reps abound, and need to be considered in line with your fitness and health goals. Some advice in this regard can be found in these two related posts: Suggested Workouts For Beginners, and Common Mistakes For Beginners.

Given that, it is important to be as informed as possible before deciding on a workout routine, and hitting the weights and machines. Stop to plan and consider your routine. The Internet has a lot of helpful guides and information, but be warned; some sites are less helpful and reputable than others. It is hard to be definitive about where to go online to get reputable and serious advice about fitness in this era of ‘fake news’ and even faker advice, so do be prepared to weigh up all that you read online. Reputable, well known gyms, sports brands and companies can usually be relied upon, as can well known and respected magazines such as Men’s Health, Women’s Health & Fitness, and similar.

That is why it is often highly beneficial to talk to staff at your new gym, or even to go as far as arranging a few initial personal training sessions to discuss your goals. Indeed, many gyms offer one or two free or discounted personal trainer sessions to new members; take advantage, ask questions, learn, and take on board what they say. Another advantage of talking to those physical training experts is that they can show you how to use the machines and equipment, and how to perform certain exercises, safely, lessening the risk of you accidentally hurting yourself through incorrect exercises through a simple lack of knowledge.

There is a lot to consider and plan before even arriving at the gym, including existing lifestyle and personal trainers. Those and more areas for beginners are the feature of More Things For Beginners To Consider Before Arriving At The Gym.


Military Fitness II: For Civilians

Following on from Part I Military Fitness; Not Just Gym Training, aside from gym circuits, it is the whole lifestyle and ethos of the military that encourages and develops a very high level of fitness, and an overall dedication to a healthy lifestyle.

After making the conscious decision for change, and deciding to whole hearted embrace a lifestyle that incorporates greater levels of fitness, small but subtle changes to the average civilian lifestyle can be introduced to gently start an increasingly fitter and healthier lifestyle. Civilians can take that gentle start mentioned in the previous post further by joining a parkrun, local running club, local outdoor activities club or similar.

It is not just activities out of work that can begin to foster that lifestyle change. If working in an office, take the opportunity to be more active. Stand up from time to time, and walk around for a while. Instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs. Instead of emailing someone in the same building – go and see them. Indeed, that can be more helpful and productive in the workplace; a five minute face to face conversation can often be more productive than a week long chain of emails.

If a freelancer or contractor, take advantage of the constantly changing workplace and work schedules to find more time and scope for physical activities, even if just those as simple as walking outdoors for a while. For those who frequently travel for work, again take advantage of the little things such as utilising a hotel gym or pool, or even stepping out of the hotel for a walk to enjoy new and different surroundings.

From such small starts your lifestyle, over time, can be changed to embrace more and more physical activity, making you fitter and healthier.

A final point is that – such things take time. In the military, so many people are gathered in basic training with varying levels of physical fitness, coming from wildly varying levels of prior healthy and active lifestyles. Basic Training lasts for ten weeks or so. It is only by the end of those ten weeks that the recruits are near the levels of fitness required to take up their duties.

After basic training, recruits are still treated like trainee idiots for a good while whilst in their specialist or role training. That means compulsory gym training, regular sports and similar. It is only at the end of that, that such levels of fitness have been truly accomplished and the recruits have had that change in attitude and lifestyle to fully want and desire to maintain such levels of fitness.

Fitness and lifestyle change, takes time, even in a military regime; it will take the average civilian similar lengths of time as well. The key thing is not to give up, and not to despair – but rather to keep on persevering.



Military Fitness: Not Just Gym Training

It goes without saying that in the military, all personnel need to have high levels of physical fitness.

The high levels of physical fitness required are the result of many factors. Firstly, gym and circuit training, timed runs, assault courses and outdoor activities – all under the eagle eyes of Physical Training Instructors (PTI’s) who better resemble The Hulk than a regular human, always have impeccable white PT kit, and are notable for their lack of sympathy if someone does not meet their required fitness standards….

It is also the military lifestyle, which is inevitably very active, involves a lot of work outdoors, and often physical labour in harsh terrain and even worse weather. The whole military atmosphere and environment also encourages and increases physical fitness, for example with physical challenges (such as charity rowing challenges or yomps), and extreme physical adventures as a matter of course (such as a mock beach assault).

Aside from that, competitive sports are a regular feature of military life. Be it representing your unit at football, competing for the Air Force in field hockey, or taking part in the famous Army v Navy rugby match, the opportunities abound. Most competitive sports are represented in some military league or association, with commanders encouraging such sports, for the sense of teamwork and esprit de corps they bring to the players.

Another key point is being around like minded, encouraging people. In the military, it is your comrades who are constantly pushing each other – and therefore themselves – further in extreme physical activities. If exhausted after an assault course in full fighting kit, but still needing to complete a 200m sprint to complete the course under time, then it is your comrades who will assist and encourage you as best they can so that the whole team crosses that finish line together. Similarly, having a group of people who will encourage and push you further in embracing physical activity and fitness will go a long way. After joining a martial arts club, for example, the instructors and fellow students will be very encouraging and supportive in your development as a martial artist, which in turn will increase your fitness.

Ultimately, the high levels of military fitness are not just derived from the gym, circuits, running and PTI’s. It is the result and end product of all of what has been mentioned. Essentially, going to the gym is not the only way to increase and improve levels of fitness; it is the whole lifestyle as well.

For civilians, often it is a matter of deciding to change. It is making the conscious decision to adopt a healthier, more active lifestyle. Sometimes even small things can be the start of great change, or can improve your fitness over time. For example, maybe consider going for long walks (ideal if you have a dog), or even something as simple as walking part of the way to work.

A full bergen is an optional extra here…

Taking that further, and slowly developing those levels of fitness, will be explored in Part II – Military Fitness II: For Civilians.


Common Workout Mistakes For Beginners

Following on from a previous post on Suggested Workouts for Beginners, it can be bewildering for those just stating at the gym.

Similarly, it can be a lifestyle shock at first for those returning to the gym after a lengthy absence. In conjunction, with the initial post, here are some common pitfalls to be avoided by those either new or returning to the gym. The key thing, though, is to take things gently, to be steady and not to suddenly on Day 1 or Day 2 pile on the weights or reps.

As mentioned in the previous post, a very important point is to decide upon the right workout for you. What works for some people may not work for you. Some exercise may brilliant if your goal is fitness, but not of your goal is core strength. With that in mind, quoting directly from the previous post

It is always advisable to seek expert advice from a member of gym staff or a personal trainer Don’t be afraid to stop passing gym staff to ask such questions; in many cases, they will be happy to help, and happy to guide and advise you.”

Common Mistakes:

1. Not Concentrating

First and foremost, leave your phone in your locker or even in the car. On the gym floor, it is a distraction, nothing more, at a time and place where you should be 100% focused on your workout.

2. Going Too Heavy

Don’t use too much weight, too soon. It is only too easy to get caught up in the excitement, good feelings and high motivation of being back at the gym, and easy to feel you can handle more weight. The truth is – at first you can’t. Your muscles need time to adjust and develop so that the y can accommodate such increased physical exertion. By piling on the weights too soon, you merely risk being injured – just when you have started back.

3. Going Too Light

Having – not using enough weight is not effective either. If you can handle 20+ reps easily, then it is time to take things up a notch. Play it safe, especially at first, but make sure you are being challenged physically.

4. Rushing Your Workout

Don’t rush your workout – take your time. Moving through your regular routine quickly accomplishes little or nothing. You can create more muscle tension by lifting and moving slowly, with controlled form

5. Not Resting Between Sets

Take things controlled and steady – but not too easy. Don’t rest for too long between sets either (especially if you’re on a particular machine that someone else is waiting for). It may be your first day or days back, and your body ill tire quickly due to the unnatural exertion. However, you need to keep that momentum going for an effective workout; try to aim for around 30-90 seconds between each set and 1-2 minutes between each exercise.

For those new to the gym – welcome, and let the journey commence! Stick at it; and you will get the body and levels of fitness that you want. However, such effort does require a steady and consistent approach, and a certain level of determination..

For those returning to the gym – welcome back! Now don’t go leaving it so long next time.


Suggested Workouts For Beginners

After many broken New Year Resolutions, after many failed promises to yourself and others, finally they have had that change of mindset, that change of lifestyle. You are finally going to get in shape and get fitter.

Whether you are a complete novice, or jumping back into the gym after a longer-than-planned hiatus (life does sometimes throw curve balls after all), sometimes the hardest part in starting (again) is in figuring out where to actually start.

With that in mind, here is a list of overall workout guidelines, and a suggested series of whole body exercises to start out with. It is important, however, to take things gently a first, and to be steady. Over time, the weights and reps can be piled on – but if you attempt that in the first week, you are inviting an injury.

Even more important, however, is in developing the right workout for you, your body, your fitness state and your requirements. It is always advisable to seek expert advice from a member of gym staff or a personal trainer Don’t be afraid to stop passing gym staff to ask such questions; in many cases, they will be happy to help, and happy to guide and advise you.

Workout Guidelines:

  • You may be initially much more intimidated by the various machines (some of which better resemble medieval torture instruments) than by the ease and freedom of the free weights – but as a beginner, using those machines can actually help prevent injury. When you are out of practice, your core and joints quite simply do not have the necessary strength needed to support your body during training. The machines support these weaker body areas and allow you to effectively isolate the intended muscle.
  • Go to the gym and do your workout at least two times per week with one day off in between each workout.
  • Alter our reps to suit your goals. For health, do 8-12 reps with sufficient weight to tire out that muscle you’re working on. To gain muscle, do two sets of 8-12 reps with sufficient weight to fatigue the muscle you’re working on. What this means is that you should not be able to move on to that second set without a rest after your last rep.

Full-Body Workout – Best Exercises for Beginners:

This is just a selection of exercises commonly recommended by physical training experts for beginners. It is not definitive at all, and it is strongly suggested to talk to gym staff or a personal trainer prior to embarking on any course of physical fitness.

  1. Treadmill – Run a moderate pace for 5 /10 minutes to warm up.
  2. Leg Press
  3. Lying Leg Curl
  4. Wide Grip Lat Pulldown
  5. Pushups
  6. Sit Ups
  7. Triceps Pulldown With Rope
  8. Bicep Curl
  9. Military Shoulder Press
  10. Calf Raises
  11. Ab Crunch Machine

Another key point is to warm up and cool down before and after a workout, it is important to get into that habit when starting out, as this will reduce the risk of injury. Similarly, get into the habit early on (especially if getting back into the gym after a long absence, and your muscles need to re-adjust to regular gym activity) of stretching before and after. This helps to loosen and repair your muscles before and after any vigourous activity, and if performed correctly after a workout can reduce any stiffness the next day.

Remember, the key here is consistency. Combining a highly nutritious diet, cardiovascular exercises and the best, recommended exercises for gym beginners will have you well on your way to a fitter, healthier, more toned and agile individual – but only if you stick with exercising and working out on a regular basis.


Nine Tips To Get Rid Of Stubborn Fat (2): From Rest To Stress

Fat loss is a common theme for many at the gym.

Fat loss has derived a multi million pound series of businesses dedicated to helping people lose fat, and lose weight.

In the first part, Nine Tips To Get Rid Of Stubborn Fat: From Protein To Weights, four of nine often used recommendations for losing fat were set out. Those ranged from increased eating of protein, to reduced drinking of alcohol. Picking up from that list, here is Part 2, with the remaining five suggestions.

Before carrying on, it must be stressed that there are a great many ways and means to lose fat, and to effectively control your body fats (after all, not all fats are bad; your body does need some stored fat). This is simply a list of the most common suggestions used by many personal trainers, coaches and nutritionists.


  1. Add Metabolic Circuits or Finishers to your Workouts

A metabolic circuit is often explained as interval training mixed with resistance training. What this gives overall is the fat burning and heart derived benefits of intensive cardio exercise together with the muscle building benefits of a hefty weight workout. Adding such an element to your workout will not only improve your cardio – but will greatly help to reduce and curb body fat. For best effect, choose a variety of exercises, such a regular weight training exercises or body weight routines, then mix them together. In this way, you will also alternate the various groups of muscles worked on.  Not only does the sheer intensity and variety of  muscle development aid in reducing fat – but he intensity of the average metabolic circuit will end up burning up a great deal of energy – and fat.

  1. Drink Plenty of Water

Being properly hydrated is a vital part of any lifestyle, and is often overlooked in the busy 21st century world. Aside from bringing great health benefits, being properly hydrated will enable your body to fully function to process fats, and will overall contribute to fat reduction. Advice ranges from drinking 2 – 3 litres of water a day, to a full 8 litres.

  1. Sleep

Similar to (6), sleep is also greatly overlooked in the bustling 21st century. Many doctors and sleep scientists recommend a full 8 or so hours of sleep a night, with most of that full, deep REM sleep. Not only does a full nights sleep enable your body to fully repair itself, and to adapt and adjust to the exertions of that day – but muscles grow and recuperate following exercise whilst asleep. A well rested body is also better able to process and remove fats.

  1. Eat More Fibre

Fibre, for many reasons, should be a part of any healthy, balanced diet. Aside from that, fibre can help in lowering fat levels. The common suggestion is to consume 25g (women) or 38g (men) of fibre daily. Outside of grains, many fruits and vegetables are often high in fibre.

  1. Reduce Stress Levels

High stress levels often have people reaching for comfort foods – often high in sugar, fats or carbohydrates. Less stress means that many psychologically will be less inclined to do so. Aside from that, high stress can trigger cortisol and similar metabolic changes in your body. Stress can also trigger ‘flight or fight’ responses, which include eating more (having greater cravings), an increased amount of fats stored in your body, and high levels of sugar in our blood. Both of those are designed to give your body extra energy if needed but are not overly helpful in the usually sedentary lifestyle of the 21st century.


Overall, fat loss is usually caused by a shift in energy balance. This will come from watching your calorie intake, and in getting enough protein. Here, protein shakes such as BPI Sports ISO HD (specifically designed for fat loss) are recommended. Lifting weights and exercising properly, in addition to considering your rest and relaxation habits, will all contribute to helping you lose fat.

As with exercise in general – patience is also very important. It will take time to see significant fat loss, but if tackled the right way, over time the result will be astounding.


Nine Tips To Get Rid Of Stubborn Fat: From Protein To Weights

Many personal trainers and coaches get asked one question a lot. Many of those who go to the gym, or who take part in recreational competitive sports, often have a similar goal. When devising a gym routine, or considering exercise sets and reps, for many there is one thing they are seeking to do. Or many, their motivation and rationale for going to the gym, or adapting to a healthy lifestyle, can be summed up in this one thing. Indeed, there is a multi-million pound industry, comprising exercises, diets, organised events and foods, all centred on this one thing.

Worked out what it is yet? Of course you have!

Fat. Or rather, fat loss, particularly stubborn fat.

Fat loss is a major theme often asked of many a fitness or nutrition expert. There is much that has already been said and to fully cover that would take several posts. However, nine suggestions and advice often given by the experts is below.


  1. Be in a Calorie Deficit (burn more calories than you eat)

Essentially, this means burning more calories in exercise and physical exertion than you eat. This in turn means watching carefully what you eat, and considering your food in line with your level of physical activity.

  1. Eat enough Protein

As a general rule, this usually means eating around 1.2 grams of protein for each pound of body weight. Protein helps to build and strengthen muscle, and will not add to the body’s stores of fats. Indeed, protein significantly helps in muscle growth – which in turn helps your body lose fat based weight. It’s not easy consuming that amount of protein consistently thought diet alone, so supplementing with a whey protein shake can help.

  1. Reduce your Alcohol Intake

This one may be hard, as everyone enjoys the odd drink – especially in social settings. The point here is to drink moderately, and not to drink to excess, or to binge drink. The basis of many alcoholic drinks are actually often high in fat or carbohydrate content; this is especially so of beer. Many spirits are often grain based (vodka being a good example), and therefore add to your body’s fat stores. Fat loss; another reason to drink in moderation!

  1. Lift Weights

Lifting weights, around 3 – 4 times a week, can, surprisingly, give significant results in your efforts to lose fat. Lifting weights helps to create muscle tissue to ensure efficient weight loss. Also, for some, fat around the arms and shoulders can be something they are seeking to reduce; lifting weights targets those muscles in most cases, making it the perfect exercise for that purpose.


It must be stressed that there are a great many ways to effectively lose fat. Those methods also do not necessarily involve exercises. Every personal trainer, coach and nutritionist has their own suggested and recommended methods, with this list just setting out nine of the most common recommended methods for fat loss.

It is a subject that much can be – and has been – written about and discussed. For the remainder of this list of nine suggested fat loss tips, see Nine Tips To Get Rid Of Stubborn Fat (2): From Rest To Stress