Blog - Health & Fitness
Unilateral training stands for single limb training where you use one side at a time. It’s most commonly performed using dumbbells, but you can also use cable machines, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises. Unilateral training offers a few significant advantages and it also provides variation to your programme. The main benefits are:
- Preventing strength imbalances from left to right side – We are seldom completely ambidextrous (being able to use both hands or legs equally well) and one side of your body may be much stronger and more agile, especially in novice trainees. Unilateral training can help balance it out over time.
- Injury prevention and rehab – It can help you move better and develop your muscles in a functional way and decrease your future injury potential. However, if you already have an injury, it can help you train around it by finding the right movement patterns for you, and also help with rehab by improving your strength balance.
Another year in the books… I love New Year’s Day!! It’s a time to celebrate your successes, reflect on what you have learned during the past 12 months, and figure out what’s the most important to you going forward. Unless you’re happy just aimlessly wondering around, you have to know your destination. I avoid calling it New Year’s resolution because they often got a bad rep. You know what they say: “Surely New Year’s resolutions never really stick for anyone, bla, bla, bla…” Too much negativity and skepticism associated with this label. Hence, I call it ambition. It’s also the word I generally use in regards to goal setting.
1. strong desire for success, achievement, or distinction
2. something so desired; goal; aim
For every person consumed with the need to achieve, there's someone content to accept whatever life brings. Why are some people born with a fire in the belly, while others need something to ignite that burning desire? And why do others never get the flame of ambition going?
If you’ve been into fitness for a while, you must have noticed that kettlebell training has secured a massive following in the recent years. Kettlebell fans claim it trumps free-weight training with traditional dumbbells and barbells. Even some strength and conditioning coaches are training athletes exclusively with kettlebells.
What makes a kettlebell different from a dumbbell? The main difference is that because of the way the handle loops over the weight, and is not centered in the middle of the load, it offsets the center of gravity and therefore requires more stability at the shoulder while performing different movements. Another benefit is that the weight doesn’t get in the way when performing certain exercises. When doing a swing while using a heavy dumbbell, you’d have to modify your stance and your movement pattern, so that it doesn’t hit your legs.
The question is: would kettlebells lead to better overall strength and performance? Which in turn would lead to better body composition i.e. less body fat.
The body has a natural inflammatory response when exposed to germs or when tissue is injured. Redness, swelling, and fever are all physical symptoms of the acute inflammatory response that comes when the body accelerates the immune system. In a healthy body, they will be quickly resolved. Also a degree of muscle soreness after hard training session is totally normal and it is crucial for progress.
With poor diet, high levels of toxicity or heavy metals, lack of physical activity, or persistent high stress, acute inflammation will become chronic. The medical establishment tells us that hypertension is the "silent killer." According to many progressive doctors, chronic inflammation also deserves that title. It is connected to obesity, fat gain, accelerated aging, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, cancer, and stomach problems. Chronic inflammation can shorten your life and will cause you pain on a persistent daily basis.
Part of the problem with inflammation and health is the overuse of anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen, aspirin, and prednisone to manage it. There are many consequences from using these drugs, especially if taken regularly. Side effects include liver problems, stomach upset, blood disorders, vision problems etc. The good news is that you can reduce inflammation without these chemical aids! Here is a list of strategies for reducing inflammation and getting healthier:
Have you ever heard that you should avoid carbohydrates if you’re trying to lose fat? Well, it’s not quite straight forward as that. You should limit them, and only go for the unprocessed, fibrous variety like sweet potatoes, yam, brown rice, rolled oats, quinoa and lentils. However, the amount of carbohydrates required will depend on the individual.
That said, there is one simple rule that you should ALWAYS stick to, and that’s this:
Never Mix Fat and Carbs
In other words, limit your fat intake whenever you’re eating carbs.
The reason for this is simple. When you consume fat, fatty acids are released into the blood stream. When you consume carbohydrates, the anabolic hormone insulin is released in to the blood stream. Fatty acids + insulin = fat storage.
Whether you’re following an exercise programme to improve body composition or increase sports performance, you probably are aware of the crucial role nutrition plays in helping you achieve your goals. If your desire is to lose fat and increase muscle tone, about 70-80% of the results will be down to eating the right things, at the right time. This is why they say that abs are made in the kitchen, and anyone who’s ever undergone a body transformation will confirm it.
Protein may be the most important macronutrient in your diet, whether your primarily goal is fat loss or muscle building. So how come mainstream nutrition and government guidelines still fail to recognize it? 2007 report by the World Health Organization on 'Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition' suggests that 0.83g of protein per kg of body weight should be ample for a healthy individual. So how come weight training enthusiasts swear by 1.5g per pound of bodyweight, which equates to 3.3g per kg? After all, anyone with a great physique and good health must be doing something right. Also I can confirm myself, that it’s the minimum amount of protein I consume daily, feeling great and achieving good results despite not having the best genetics to be a fitness model.
When did you last change your training routine? If you’ve been doing the same exercises in the same order, at the same intensity, then no wonder if your progress has stalled. You may want to switch up a few variables in order to make your body responsive again, but you need to have the right strategy for every segment of every workout to successfully build your physique as quickly and safely as possible. Let’s examine some of the most common routine design faults to help you devise a better scheme.
Fault #1 Not Training Enough
Some people really think it’s enough to go to the gym once or twice per week, or attend an exercise class here or there to get in shape, although it does depend on your goals and the state your body is in at the moment. You probably know a few lucky ones who look great while not training at all, however, if you’re not happy with your shape, you better have determination and be prepared to put in some work.
Fault #2 Overtraining
This is a much less common trait. However, under-resting and under-eating is mistake we’ve all made at some point. Roadblocks to progress are rarely created by intensity or volume. Instead, the common culprit is the failure to recuperate between workouts. You need to properly space your gym sessions to ensure full recovery – at least 72 hours between workouts for the same bodypart is a good standard, although it depends on intensity. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t train two days in a row. It depends what you train and how hard, and this is where a well designed 4 or 5 day split programme comes handy.
What’s stopping you from achieving your health and fitness goals? Are you struggling to stay motivated? You may have noticed some unwanted patterns of behaviour that make you go off track at times. Or maybe you’ve simply been procrastinating for a long time and haven’t got out of your comfort zone to take action and get started with it? Sounds all too familiar?
Whatever are the reasons that hold you back from getting in the best shape of your life, it may largely be down to your identity, self-image and habitual behaviour (our habits define us!). Your best endeavour may be clashing with the picture of yourself ingrained in your subconscious mind. Dr Maxwell Maltz explains this in the classic self-help book “Psycho-Cybernetics”:
Whether we realize it or not, each of us carries about with us a mental blueprint or picture of ourselves. It may be vague and ill defined to our conscious gaze. In fact, it may not be consciously recognizable at all. But it is there, complete down to the last detail. This self-image is our own conception of the "sort of person I am.” It has been built up from our own beliefs about ourselves. But most of these beliefs about ourselves have unconsciously been formed from our past experiences, our successes and failures, our humiliations, our triumphs, and the way other people have reacted to us, especially in early childhood. From all these we mentally construct a "self" (or a picture of a self). Once an idea or belief about ourselves goes into this picture it becomes “true,” as far as we personally are concerned. We do not question its validity, but proceed to act upon it just as if it were true.
This self-image becomes a golden key to living a better life because of two important discoveries:
You’re working out hard, pushing yourself to the max. Everything is going great and you’re happy about seeing the results until… One evening after a tough workout you’re nose starts to run a little, and your throat feels funny. Next morning you wake up feeling terrible as you got a nasty cold. Sounds familiar?
It’s not easy to avoid catching a cold when it’s that time of the year and everyone around you is getting ill. Especially when your immunity is not at 100% as your body is recovering from a workout. Research has shown that runners who train more than 60 miles per week have roughly double the risk of infection, compared with runners who ran less than 20 miles a week.
Vitamin C is known for its ability to help stave off or shorten the duration of colds and flu-like illnesses, and in normal health it is also responsible for keeping the body's tissues healthy. Aside from helping the body to absorb essential iron, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, and helps control the formation of free radicals that damage cells and contribute to ageing.
Studies also show that vitamin C plays an important role in helping to remove cortisol and minimize the catabolic stress response post-workout. Cortisol is a hormone produced in the human body by the adrenal gland and it is released in response to stress. Have you ever boosted yourself up with a dose of caffeine before a workout and had that anxious, jittery feeling afterwards? That’s the effect of increased cortisol. The first point is to take it everyday or for an extended duration, and a good idea is to take 1.5 to 2g of vitamin C post-workout with your protein shake because that will help clear any excess caffeine or other stimulants left in your system, clear cortisol from the body and speed recovery.
It’s funny how some people almost consider “fat” a swear word. I don’t mean to be rude when describing someone in that fashion, I just prefer to call it as I see it, and I think some of us are way too sensitive to it. It’s totally subjective, and everyone got their own perception. Fitness professionals (including me) often feel fat if they don’t have a visible six-pack. To some the goal may be a flat belly with no flab and love handles hanging over the belt. Others, however, are happy as long as they can tie their own shoelaces and not have to pay for two seats on a flight.
I can understand some people having no issue in being overweight. Even some celebs are known to be completely comfortable with it. For example, Christina Aguilera has gained a lot of weight recently but is not thinking about losing it. To some, the idea of breaking away from the ideals of beauty portrayed in the media can be liberating. Also, maintaining the weight, i.e. as long as it isn't constantly increasing, is fine to some. It’s really a reflection of the person’s self-image, and the standards we set for ourselves.