Which is The Best Workout

Recently I have received a few messages asking about how I train, specifically things like whats the best setup to build muscle, tone or lose weight.

IMO your workout should be focused on 1 thing only…MUSCLE. Whatever your goal, whether it be to lose body fat, tone up, gain muscle, etc, your workout needs to focus on continually forcing your body to adapt and either build or maintain your hard earned muscle. Unless of course you are just in the gym for a jolly good time, in that case keep doing what you’re doing and hat off to you 😉

Women… don’t worry, you won’t end up looking like the hulk training this way, your hormones won’t allow you to get “bulky” and the image in your head of women with muscles are those that take performance enhancing drugs.

Men.. also don’t worry, you won’t get “too big”, at something like 5ft 10, the biggest you could ever get without performance enhancing drugs is around 210lbs at an OK body fat, visible abs, or absolutely shredded you would prob get to around 190lbs ish.

Our genetics put a limit on how fast and big we can grow, I assure you that 95% of the people you see in the fitness industry posting pictures of themselves on Facebook or Instagram are taking things they shouldn’t be. The truth is that if you train your ass off, eat right and remain consistent the end result will be a lean, toned, shaped physique. Think lean and toned beach body instead of big and bulky bodybuilder.

Each area of your fitness should focus on a specific outcome
Diet (either calorie surplus to build muscle or calorie deficit to lose fat)
Cardio (health and/or fat loss)
Weights (build or maintain muscle)

I wouldn’t recommend cardio to build muscle or weights to lose fat. We want to use each of these tools in the most optimal way to transform our physique and reach our goal.

As mentioned, whether my goal is losing body fat or gaining muscle, my weights sessions stay exactly the same, focused around progressive overload (more on that in a minute).

I then adjust my cardio and diet to determine the outcome of my body composition week on week.

More calories and/or less cardio (I always keep at least 30 min a day in place for health) = bulking.

Less calories and/or more cardio = losing body fat.

Why don’t I change the weights sessions?

Imagine if you are trying to lose body fat for a period of 12 weeks.
Throughout this time you maintain your strength in the gym or maybe even get stronger BUT your body weight is going down as you diet.

Logic would suggest to me that if you are maintaining your strength then your body is holding on to all the muscle you have.

Now lets say that instead of focusing on strength you decide to use your weights workout to burn fat. You use lighter weights for more reps and get weaker.

Logic would suggest to me that you are losing your hard earned muscle.

It takes SO much effort and precision to build muscle, why would you want to throw it away like that?!

Your no1 focus week in week out in the weights area should be progressive overload…what the hell is that? I hear you ask.

Progressive Overload

To put simply, this means that week in and week out you progressively overload your muscles.

Lets say week 1 you do 3 sets of bicep curls for 10 reps.
week 2 you do 4 sets for 10 reps.

this is progressive overload, you are applying a progressively higher stimulus to your muscles..

NOW..

The issue here is that you can’t keep adding volume (number of sets and reps) within a few months you would be doing 20 sets for this an 40 sets for that. Instead I highly recommend that you invest in a log book to use in the gym and focus on increasing the amount of reps and/or weight you lift. Small increments in strength week in, week out with a variety of rep ranges and exercises to progressively overload the muscles.

How Many Reps?

You may have heard something like 3-5 reps builds strength, 8-12 reps builds muscle and 15+ reps builds endurance.

I’m not going to go into the science behind it all for this specific post, maybe we can cover that later. The truth is that more and more evidence is showing that you can build muscle in any rep range providing you take the muscle to failure (Failure is the point at which you can no longer move the weight with good form), however lower reps do seem to lend themselves better to building strength and higher reps do seem to increase the metabolic damage caused, all of these points are factors in building muscle.

The bottom line?

We want to get stronger in a variety of rep ranges to ensure that we are hitting the predominant factors for muscle hypertrophy (growth)

  • Muscle Damage
  • Metabolic Stress
  • Muscle Tension

By utilising a variety of rep ranges we can cover all of our basis for building muscle and give our body the best chance possible of growing.

I like to warm up with a weight hitting about 20 reps, this is my recruitment set where I really take time to think about the target muscle, make sure I am activating it throughout and can feel it working. I then check my log book and go for my max weight I can handle for 6-9 reps. I then rest and reduce the weight enough that this time I can get 9-12 and finally, 1 last set not to failure, where my goal it to “pump” the muscle and I aim for 15 reps.

When to Increase Weight?

I like to have rep ranges instead of set numbers. I will do 2 working sets per exercise 6-9 and 9-12.

Once I hit 9 reps with my max weight I increase the weight.

Once I hit 12 reps with my next set I increase the weight.

Body Part Split – How and What to Train

You may have read various different prescriptions for workouts, anything from the bodybuilder “bro” training split of something like; Monday- chest, Tuesday – back, Wednesday – Legs, etc..

..to a full body workout 2-3 times a week.

Which is best?

With all things being equal (volume and exercises), it has been shown that splitting your workout across the week and training muscles more often is more favourable to muscle growth than smashing the body part once per week. By this I mean that if you usually train Chest on a Monday for 30 sets of 12 reps, you would likely see better results if you split that into 3 chest sessions of 10 sets across the week.

What Would I do?

High frequency training combined with progressive overload AND the right diet is a formula for success.

How often you train will depend on how much time you have and how quickly you can recover.

Your logbook will be the key indicator as to whether you are recovering. If you don’t beat your numbers, your diet is not adequate or you are not resting enough between sessions.

Ideally you want 2-3 variations of each session for your log book, using legs as an example..

Week 1 Session 1 (LEGS a1)

Week 1 Session 2 (LEGS b1)

Week 2 Session 1 (LEGS a2)

Week 2 Session 2 (LEGS b2)

Week 3 Session 1 (REPEAT WEEK 1, a1)

etc this gives you a good rotation through exercises so that you do not stall on lifts and enough variety that over 3 or 4 months you are not bored.

LEGS a1 could be something like Squats, Leg press, Walking lunge, Leg extension, Barbell stiff leg deadlift, Seated hamstring curl, Calves.

Then LEGS b1 would be a variation Front squats, Feet wide and high leg press, Bulgarian split squats, Sissy squats, DB stiff leg deadlift, Laying hamstring curl, Calves.

You would create 2 more variants, a2 and b2, which means that it will be 2 full weeks before you repeat any one session. When you do, thats the time to either hit more reps with the same weight OR increase the weight a little and hit the same amount of reps.

Depending on how many days you can train and how quickly you recover I would recommend the following splits..

3 Days a Week

  • Mon – UPPER
  • Tues – OFF
  • Wed – LOWER & ARMS
  • Thurs –  OFF
  • Fri – UPPER
  • Sat – OFF
  • Sun – OFF

The following Monday I would then continue with a LOWER workout and so on. You could also do a full body workout 3 days a week if you were a beginner.

4 Days a Week

  • Mon – OFF
  • Tues – UPPER
  • Wed – OFF
  • Thurs –  LOWER & ARMS
  • Fri – OFF
  • Sat – UPPER
  • Sun – LOWER & ARMS

5 Days a Week

  • Mon – OFF
  • Tues – PUSH
  • Wed – PULL
  • Thurs –  LEGS
  • Fri – OFF
  • Sat – UPPER
  • Sun – LOWER & ARMS

6 Days a Week Recommended

  • Mon – PUSH
  • Tues – PULL
  • Wed – LEGS
  • Thurs –  PUSH
  • Fri – PULL
  • Sat – LEGS
  • Sun – OFF

6 Days a Week Overreaching (used for short periods of approx 4 weeks before a deload)

  • Mon – CHEST/BACK/SHOULDERS
  • Tues – LEGS/ARMS/ABS/CALVES
  • Wed – CHEST/BACK/SHOULDERS
  • Thurs –  LEGS/ARMS/ABS/CALVES
  • Fri – CHEST/BACK/SHOULDERS
  • Sat – LEGS
  • Sun – OFF

With the exception of 3 days a week training all the volume for the other splits would be exactly the same. Same amount of sets and exercises regardless of how often you are training.

Which Exercises to Choose?

The focus should be on compound movements, I would say that something like 70-80% of your workout should be compound movements unless you are extremely advanced in muscular development and/or have weaknesses that need attention.

PLEASE NOTE:

The above is a generic setup for anyone looking to build muscle. Obviously some people have functional goals in stead of muscle building OR they have weak legs or shoulders etc that require more attention. The routines and methods outlined above are specific to me with the goal of building as much muscle as possible. Any questions or if you want to tailor this to you, please dont hesitate to DM me on social.

 

 

 

 

 

Body Sculpting Blueprint

“How do you build muscle on a vegan diet?”

“I’m worried now i’m vegan carbs will make me fat”

“How can I lose weight and tone up on a vegan diet”

“Where do I get my protein from?”

“What do I eat to recover from a workout?”

These are just a handful of the questions I get asked on a daily basis through my Facebook page so I decided to come up with a really cheesy title (Body Sculpting Blueprint) and put together some of the fundamentals for body composition, diet and training.

First up, STOP LOOKING FOR THE MAGIC ANSWER, whether its a program or diet PLEASE JUST STOP. Look, if you really want to spend money to “feel” like you are accountable and have THE answer, then just donate £100 of your hard earned cash to a vegan charity of your choice and then simply read this post. At least that way your cash is helping the world rather than lining the pockets of someone who convinced you that carbs are the devil or it only takes THESE 5 exercises to sculpt your abs and tone your ass. haha

Phew, now thats out the way, I am going to tell you exactly what you need to do to reach your goal…and here is the big secret, that everyone cant figure out, once you know what to do, the ONLY way to get results is consistency and commitment. There I said it. I swear, hands down, that if you follow what I am about to tell you, then you will achieve your goal. Depending on how much you adhere to everything, depends on what your end result will look like. So here goes..

No.1 It’s the Calories That Matter

Calories will determine if you lose weight or gain weight…not carbohydrates, not fat, not protein but calories. If you burn (through metabolism & activity) more calories than you eat then your body must make up for this energy deficit by releasing stored energy and using it for fuel, the end result is you lose weight.

If you eat more calories that you burn (through metabolism and activity) then your body will store this energy and you will gain weight.

If my daily energy expenditure was 2,500 kcal a day and I ate 2,000 kcal of Oreos every day for 3 weeks I would lose weight or if I ate 2,000 kcal of peanut butter for 3 weeks or 2,000 kcal of bananas…it’s the calories, not the specific macronutrient (carbs, protein, fat) that determine if you gain or lose weight.

2. Losing or Gaining the Right Kind of Weight

Now you know how to lose or gain weight, is there a way that we can shift the odds in our favour in terms of what kind of weight we gain or lose.

What I mean by this is, when dieting we dont just want to lose weight, we want to safeguard our muscle and lose just the fat and likewise when bulking we dont want to add 5lbs of fat for every 1lb of muscle. We want to tip the scales in our favour, after all, if you weighed 150lbs dieted for 8 weeks and lost 10lbs but 8lbs was muscle and 2lbs was fat, you could find that you actually have a worse body composition after your diet than you did before…your overall body fat % may have gone up even if you lost weight!

The good news is that yes..we can tip the scales in our favour either way.

When Dieting

We want to safeguard our muscle, to do this studies have shown that an increase in protein consumption during calorie restriction can prevent muscle loss and therefore, as long as your weight loss is steady and not drastic, will mean that you mostly lose body fat during your diet and not your hard earned muscle. Aim for 2-3g protein per kg of bodyweight.

When bulking

There is likely no benefit to eating more than 1.4-2g protein per kg of bodyweight, so don’t waste calories on unnecessary amounts of protein. Instead, consume a sensible amount of fat 10-20% of total calories (from good fat source, not saturated) and use the rest of your calories for carbs, particularly around your workout to fuel your intensity and recover quickly.

Whether bulking or cutting you typically want to aim for 0.5-1lb change in bodyweight each week. If your macros are correct then you should be transforming your physique, sculpting it to your desired goal.

“But 0.5lbs sounds too slow”

I hear you…but listen, if your calories and macros are on point, along with the right training plan then that number means F.A. Why?! It is possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, you dont have to go through big ups and downs with your body fat level. What if over the next 4 weeks you lost 3lbs of fat but gained 2.5lbs of muscle…well that means that you have only dropped 0.5lbs on the scale, but guess what…you look bad ass now, toned and tighter, everything coming together. Dont focus on the number, focus on how you look!

3. How Many Meals

Don’t beleive the nonsense that you have to eat every few hours to stoke the metabolic fireplace and keep your metabolism high, research shows that whether you eat all your food in one go or spread across the day, the energy expended from eating is the same. HOWEVER…

There is a reason I favour splitting your meals up, which is protein synthesis. You see, to build muscle or maintain muscle we want to keep our body in a positive state of anabolism, meaning that our body is trying to build muscle and repair instead of catabolic where it is breaking down muscle. Truth is your body goes through this process of anabolic and catabolic all day, but we want to tip the scales in our favour, just like we do with macros. By eating every 3-4 hours and splitting our protein up to set portions across the day we can maximally stimulate protein synthesis across the day and give us the best chance of achieving our goals.

4. Micronutrients

On a vegan diet there is no reason why you should not be getting 20+ of your “5 a day”, your diet should be packed with vegetables, salad, fruit, nuts, legumes, seeds, grains and beans. Think of every food that you eat like a medicine for your body, everything serves a purpose. Why would you want to eat cookies if blackberries have powerful antioxidants to fight cancer and starve off diabetes. Everything you eat is amazing and can either heal your body and help you reach your goal or fight you and cause inflammation, constipation, wild fluctuations in blood sugar and a whole host of other issues.

I highly recommend purchasing “How Not to Die” on Amazon, it will give you a great insight into some of the powerful benefits of a plant based diet and specific foods you may want to include…or just confirm how awesome you are and justify everything you eat already 😉

4. Training

Calories (tick)

Which macronutrients to have (tick)

Micronutrients (tick)

Your body now has everything it needs, the right calories and macros combined with a nutrient dense diet (I will give you my diet plan below) to get you to your goal. Now all you need to do is spark the fire that will put all this nutrition to use and set you on your way to the changes you want.

First up is Cardio

I recommend that everyone (unless you have a v active job), whether you are bulking or dieting includes 35-45min of “cardio” a day, getting your heart rate above 130BPM and sweating. Not at a level where you cant breath, but just a comfortable pace for general cardiovascular health.

Next is weight lifting

Whether you are a woman who wants to look good in a bikini or a man who wants to step on a body building stage, the method of gaining muscle is exactly the same!

This DOES NOT mean that women will gain ripped bulging biceps! also it DOES NOT mean that mean will get big quickly..the amount of people that say to me “I want to get big but not too big”…c’mon! I have been training day in day out, meticiulous with my diet for years and I’m not too big haha…

for your body to build muscle it takes hard work and consistency, your body does not want muscle, in terms of evolution and survival, too much muscle was a handicap. Your body would rather be lean and nimble, not have lbs of additional lean mass to worry about.

so to actually build muscle we must force our body to change and we do this through

mixing up the exercises and confusing the muscle (JOKING, rolls eyes)…

PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD

We want to apply an increasing load (stimulus) to our body over a period of time to force an adaptation.

Imagine a guy in the gym doing squats or bench press with 60kg

Now imagine a woman in the gym doing db shoulder press with 20kg

1 year goes by, you walk back in the gym and that same guy and girl are using the exact same weights for the same exact amount of reps.

Do you think that their body changed?….NO

this is why you see people in the gym month after month, year after year with little to no change.

Because their magazine or app or whatever it was said do 4 sets of this for 12 reps thats what they did…for a year!

So whats the answer?

FORCE YOUR BODY TO CHANGE

Imagine now that same guy and girl, you walk back in the gym a year later and he is bench pressing 120kg and she is db shoulder pressing 40kg, now do you think their body would have changed?… exactly.

Dont focus on “fluff” going for the burn or aimlessly following a routine. Have a goal! a purpose and progress your lifts week on week to force an adaptation.

Lets see an example..

Set a time scale of 3-4 months and focus on building your strength each week for specific exercises.

I recommend training body parts twice per week with 2 variations of workouts.

Using legs as an example..

  • Week 1 Session 1 (LEGS a1)
  • Week 1 Session 2 (LEGS b1)
  • Week 2 Session 1 (LEGS a2)
  • Week 2 Session 2 (LEGS b2)
  • Week 3 Session 1 (REPEAT WEEK 1, a1)

etc

this gives you a good rotation through exercises so that you do not stall on lifts and enough variety that over 3 or 4 months you are not bored.

LEGS a1 could be something like

  • Squats
  • Leg press
  • Walking lunge
  • Leg extension
  • Barbell stiff leg deadlift
  • Seated hamstring curl
  • Calves

Then LEGS b1 would be a variation

  • Front squats
  • Feet wide and high leg press
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Sissy squats
  • DB stiff leg deadlift
  • Laying hamstring curl
  • Calves

you would create 2 more variants, a2 and b2

All exercises would be in the 8-15 rep range, with the exception of the isolation exercises e.g. leg extensions, for these you can go up to 20 (just a personal preference).

Do enough warm up sets that you are ready to lift and then go for your absolute max weight for 8 reps. e.g.

  • Squat (warm up/not failure) 60 x 10
  • Squat (warm up/not failure) 80 x 8
  • Squat (warm up/not failure) 90 x 3
  • Squat (1st working set) 100 x 8
  • Reduce weight by approx 10%
  • Squat (2nd working set) 90 x 11
  • Reduce weight by approx 10%
  • Squat (3rd working set) 80 x 14

Log the 3 working sets, next time round (in 2 weeks) your goal is to beat these numbers. IF you beat the numbers on every exercise, every set, every 2 weeks AND you are eating enough food then you will grow, no doubt about it!

Diet Example

Breakfast – Oats, protein smoothie (kale, spinach, protein powder, cinnamon) , berries.

Pre Workout – Beetroot juice, banana, fermented BCAA

Intra Workout – Carb powder, fermented BCAA

Post Workout – Protein smoothie (as above), beans, sweet potato, dates.

Lunch – Chickpea salad (Apple, lettuce, tomato, pepper, spinach), protein smoothie (as above), blackberries

Mid afternoon – protein smoothie (as above), popcorn

Dinner – tofu, lentils, avacado, broccoli, cauliflower, protein smoothie (as above)

Bed – Brazil nuts, walnuts, protein smoothie (as above plus flaxeed)

 

Right.. thats it in a nutshell, ping me on Facebook if you have any questions and thanks for reading!