As a trainer I am often confronted with frustrated gym goers who feel they have hit a plateau and are not getting the progress they are after. I hope to share my own thoughts and opinions on this to help you smash through your plateau and take your training to new levels! This blog post is specifically looking at bodybuilding/gaining size (I’ll do one for weightloss/fatloss soon!).
There are many reasons why you may feel as though you are struggling to progress…
#1 You’re just ticking the box
This is extremely common. If you want to progress you need to push yourself, pick up heavier weights, do more reps, up the intensity. Going to the gym to lift a weight for 3 sets of 8 of the same weight with the same rest just will not cut it. If you are training to put on size and lean muscle you want to perform 5-10 maximal reps per set. Maximal is the important word here. When training for lean muscle make sure to pick a weight that challenges you and makes you need to rest before the next set. A good way to check if the weight is right for you is to make sure that you do not feel that you can do +2 reps of your rep range. I.E. if you are aiming to perform 8 reps, by the 8th rep you should not feel confident that you could perform another 2 reps without a rest.
If you feel that you can do the extra 2 reps then discount that set as a ‘warm up’ and pick a heavier weight – don’t cheat yourself!
#2 You’re training in your comfort zone
Another common reason for slow progress is that your body has become used to and adapted to your training. You need to switch things up, hit new muscles and different angles to really challenge your body and re-start the growth! This can be done by changing your split for a few weeks, adding in some new supersets/trisets or exercises. If you are aiming to gain size then you need to give your muscles sufficient rest so make sure you structure your sessions to allow this. If, for example, you are training chest and biceps and you perform 3 chest exercises in a row (Bench press 4×6, Incline Dumbbell Press 3×8, Pec-Dec 3×8) – is your chest muscle getting enough rest? Can they perform and lift heavy weights for each exercise? Probably not.
I would recommend the following split:
Day 1: Chest and Back
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Biceps and Triceps
Day 5: Shoulders and Abs
Day 6: Rest/Cardio
Day 7: Rest/Cardio
Make sure to alternate exercises during a training session as well. For example, perform a chest exercise then a back exercise before going back to chest (eg. Bench Press 4×6, Bent Over Row 4×6, Incline Dumbbell Press 3×8, Seated Row 3×8). By doing this your chest (or muscle 1) will have lots of recovery and be able to lift heavier for exercise number 2 – meaning more tears and more growth!
#3 Your Diet
As much as you may try and fight it, diet is key to progress. If you’re not fuelling yourself correctly for your sessions then you will not be able to train at a high enough intensity. Poor diet can also hinder muscle growth and increase your recovery time. Make sure to check out our other blogs to see how to get the most out of your training by making some small tweaks to your diet!
What are your own thoughts/ideas for when you or a client hits a plateau? Feel free to share below and help each other out!
There are many benefits of running. From favourable adaptations to your physiology, such as: improved cardiovascular fitness, improved lung capacity and improved bone health. As well as psychological benefits, such as: providing a sense of freedom, reducing stress and helps fight against illnesses like depression. This post will help you plan your run, give you some cross training ideas to improve your running and also touch upon some running nutrition.
Plan Your Run
If you want to progress in your running it is important to plan out your sessions and taper to any events. It is also important to warm up and cool down correctly prior to and following any runs. This section looks to help you plan a running routine to help progress your running to new improved heights!
As with all activities it is imperative that you warm up and cool down. This is often overlooked when running or even performed wrong! A good warm up will help prepare your body for the challenge of the session. A good warm up will follow the RAMP principle (explained in the warm up blog – coming soon!). A warm up ought to:
- Increase your heart rate – this increases the flow of oxygenated blood to your working muscles which is needed to reduce lactic acid build up and produce energy
- Increase your muscle temperature – this makes your muscles more malleable which reduces the risk of injury and ‘pulled’ muscles
- Allows you to prepare mentally and get ‘in the zone’
After you warm up, you need to decide what sort of session you want to perform. We have picked 5 to discuss here, but there are many more to try with a little research online!
Long Slow Distance (Continuous Training) –
Continuous training means that you perform an exercise for an extended period of time with no rest or large change in intensity. An example, would be going out and running half marathon distance. This training is fairly low intensity and a good way to get your body used to increased distance. These sessions should last at least 30 minutes.
Interval training means that you alternate between bouts of high and low intensity during your run. You can adjust the intensity of this by planning out your rest to work ratio (low to high intensity). For example, you could perform 1.5km at a comfortable pace then perform 0.5km at a greatly increased pace and repeat. This form of training is more intense than continuous training but helps your body deal with lactic acid and stress that you would experience on a longer run, but in a shorter time frame.
Fartlek training is similar to interval training. You break down your run into stages (for example: Walk, Jog comfortably, Run race pace, and sprint). Then you would plan to alternate which stage you perform throughout the run. For example: Run 5min, Sprint 30sec, Jog 3min, Walk 1min, Run 3min etc. This is again more intense than continuous training and also a good way to put your body under stress when time is limited. It is more structured than interval training and a great way to mix up your running!
Building refers to you increasing your pace continuously after a set time or distance. For example: First kilometre run in 5min, 2nd in 4.5min, 3rd in 4min etc. You can also perform this in reverse or as a pyramid (Gradual increase to max, then gradual decrease back to comfortable pace). This is a good way to mix up your training and push your body in a new way and work on your speed as well as endurance!
Specific training is, well, specific. This is when you highlight a weakness in your running and hone in to train that weakness. An example of specific training can be hill running. These sessions are generally shorter during and focus on your technique and adapt your approach to obstacles that you may encounter during longer or new runs.
To see how your diet should change to match your training and on competition days check our performance nutrition post!
So we have made a post that covers your daily nutrition, what you should aim to consume and some tips on following a healthy diet that suits you. However, if you train regularly then you may find that a more detailed guide is needed. Well no fear, you are reading one such guide!
Before we go any further it is important to get the nutrition lingo on lock down and work out how many calories you need each day.
So what is a calorie?
A calorie is a measurement of energy that food contains. They are obtained from carbohydrates, fats, protein and alcohol; per 1g of each they provide, 4kcal, 9kcal, 4kcal and 7kcal respectively.
How many calories do you need?
To answer this you need to work out your basal metabolic rate (BRM). The quick and easy method is:
Women BMR = weight (kg) x 2 x 11
Men BMR = weight (kg) x 2 x 12
This gives you a rough guideline into the amount of calories your body burns at rest over 24h.
Daily calorie needs:
To work out your daily calorie needs you need to times your BMR by Physical Activity Level (PAL) to get daily calorie needs
Inactive/sedentary = x 1.2
Fairly active, exercise 1-2 times a week = 1.3
Moderately active, exercise 2-3 times a week = 1.4
Active, exercise hard more than 3times a week = 1.5
Very active, exercise hard daily = 1.7
Eg. 70kg Inactive Women = 1848kcal, Active = 2618kcal
Glycaemic Index = Ranking of foods from 0-100 based on their immediate effect on blood sugar levels in the bloodstream.
Still with us? I know that was exceedingly boring, who wants to do maths for fun?! But it is important to work out your energy requirements and plan your meals/snacks to fuel yourself correctly. This will give you more energy, improve your mood and help you smash your goals – worth it!
How does your diet change for training and competition days?
It takes 24h to refill muscle glycogen stores, so what you eat the day before matters. You should consume 3-7g/kg of carbohydrates to ensure full stores. Therefore the main purpose of a pre-workout or training meal is to stabilise blood sugar levels during the exercise. It serves to stave off hunger and minimise risk of issues such as stitches and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).
1-4 hours before training
It is important to start your training fully hydrated. You can do this by drinking 5-7ml/kg 2-4h before training. If you forget to do this then drink 100-250ml of water if you are training in less than an hour! You want to aim to eat 2-4g of carbohydrate per kilogram 2-4 hours before a training session in the form of a small meal, such as pasta and chicken/ rice and fish. If you are unable to do this you should consume 1g of carbohydrate per kilogram in the hour before you train. This can be done by eating a banana or some toast and honey.
During a Short Session (sub. 60min)
Hydration is important during a short session and you should aim to ‘drink to thirst’. Take small and frequent sips when you feel the need for a drink. You will not need to consume any extra carbohydrates during this duration. Instead stick to water or a low-calorie squash.
During a 1-2h Session
You should still drink to thirst during and expect to consume roughly 400-800ml of water per hour. You should aim to consume 15-30g of carbohydrate every 15-30 minutes, aiming for a total of 30-60g per hour. This can be done by consuming energy/granola bars, gels, dried fruit and honey. Remember that if you decide to drink squash or a sports drink to take into account the calories from it!
During a Long Run (over 2h)
Aim to drink 400-800ml of water per hour according to thirst; taking small sips little and often. You want to consume 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour. Unless you are running for over 3h, in which case this should be increased up to 90g per hour. This can come from sports drinks, bananas, gels, energy/granola bars, dried fruit and honey.
After a Session (lasting over 60min)
Post session you should drink 750ml of water per 0.5kg weight you have lost compared to the start of the run. You should eat a small snack containing both carbohydrate and protein in a 3:1 ratio. This can be done by drinking milk and a flapjack, or a sandwich and yogurt. More information on recovery nutrition coming soon!
We hope that this has been clear and helped you plan and adapt your diet around your training to get the best performance! Let us know your thoughts and share any snacks or tips that you have with others. Keep an eye out for our recovery nutrition post coming soon!
-The Sculpt Team
Finding reliable and direct everyday nutrition advice can be difficult in a world as saturated as the fitness industry online. Not only do many professionals differ in their approach to optimal nutrition, but the science behind what is best for your body constantly changes as well!
Sculpt want to help you cut through the fat and help provide you with some easy to digest nutrition basics. These are the bare-bones for you to structure your diet around. If you train or exercise regularly your diet will need to be adapted to ensure you are fuelling and recovering correctly. So without further ado, here is what the UK national food guidelines state for adults:
- Average male should consume 2550 calories daily while the average female ought to consume 1950 calories
- A minimum of 55g of protein
- At least 50% of your calories are from carbohydrate digestion
- Maximum of 70g and 50g of sugar for males and females respectively
- Maximum 35% of your calories are from fat digestion
- Maximum of 30g and 20g of saturated fat for males and females respectively
As mentioned earlier, these are just some rough guidelines – not rigid rules. You’ll often find that if you are exercising regularly, or have a fixed goal such as to lose body fat, that your macro-nutrient (dietary fat, carbohydrate and protein) intake will vary from these guidelines. For example; a bodybuilder who is aiming to compete and wants to drop their body fat percentage will reduce their carbohydrate intake and increase their protein and fat intake.
So the UK guidelines have given us some numbers to work with, but what about the structure of our meals? Well the Food Standards Agency have given 8 healthy eating tips to follow:
- Base your meals on starchy food (pasta, rice, potato etc)
- Eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day (2/3 adults currently fail to achieve this)
- Eat 2 portions of fish per week (one of which being oily)
- Cut down on saturated fat and sugar
- No more than 6g of salt per day
- Get active and be a healthy weight
- Drink 6-8 glasses of water per day
- Don’t skip breakfast
Again, these are just guidelines but a great starting block if you are looking to improve your diet. The population as a whole are on a worrying downwards slope in regards to following a healthy active lifestyle. In the UK 19% of adults, nearly 1 in 5 smoke (OPN, 2014) and the International Diabetes Federation predict that by 2035, 1 in 10 people will be diabetic wordwide! Although there are many factors that can influence your lifestyle and activity, your diet is completely modifiable. Making positive changes and following the set guidelines is a great start to stop these worrying trends and improve your health, quality of life and performance.
So what does Sculpt suggest? Everyone, qualified or not, has an opinion on the best diet to follow. Our thoughts on the subject are as follows;
- Eat colourful! By eating food that varies in colour you are sure to hit your vitamin and mineral requirements. When cooking vegetables for a meal don’t go all green (such as peas, beans and broccoli), instead look to have each vegetable a different colour (such as peas, carrots and red onion) this can also make your meals more enjoyable to make and interesting!
- Aim for 8 portions of fruit and veg per day! 5 is a great start but why stop there? Increased intake has been linked to reduced cancer risk, reduced heart disease risk and a reduced risk in premature death. Aiming for 8 can be a challenge, but plan your meals in advance and make snacks for the week that contain extra portions.
- Eat whole fresh food and try to avoid processed foods! The UK have a whole host of great local markets and farmers and fishermen, lets make use of them. Try to buy your food fresh to reduce the risk of any chemical treatments or nasty surprises. Again, this comes down to planning and writing down what you want to eat for a week or even just a few days in advance will go a long way in improving your diet and resisting the urge to order food or turn on the microwave!
- If you snack a lot, up your protein intake! Protein is not just for gym goers, it is vital for growth and repair of cells. It is also a great hunger suppressor, more protein will reduce the risk of snacking or feeling hungry between meals.
- Cook with olive oil when using a high heat! Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat and therefore more stable at higher temperatures. There has been a recent trend of using coconut oil for frying food; however, coconut oil is high in saturated fat and will raise both HDL and LDL cholesterol. There has not been enough research into the effect of the cholesterol changes so tread carefully!
Hopefully this has been clear and helped you plan a healthy diet! Remember, these are all guidelines and it will vary from person to person. If you want help with developing your own specific diet get in contact with a member of the SculptLife team today!