Strength Training – A Powerful Medicine

When most people think of strength training, they think about the visual impact: building more muscle, losing body fat, changing body shape, etc.  What they don’t realise is that the physical changes that we see are just the tip of the iceberg. The real benefits (which scientific research has now demonstrated) are far greater than most people could possibly conceive.

 

The real issue embedding most people’s misguided view for strength training is that the media typically exposes us to the extremes.  If you were to ask most people on the street how they would picture a weightlifter or somebody who regularly lifts weights, you may get recollections of men with blood pouring out their nose from lifting 1000lbs and steroid abusing male and female bodybuilders who are just as unhealthy as many obese individuals.  When most people inform their doctor or family that they are weight training they typically get the same response: “But you’ll get too big!” or “you only need to do aerobics for heart health”. Unfortunately these misconceptions have emulated from years of stigma, myths and stereotypes.

 

How about the 40-year-old mum or the 50-year-old office worker who just wants to get in better shape and improve their health?  Lifting weights won’t just make you stronger and more muscular.  Used and programmed correctly it has the potential to literally transform your life and your health.

 

Here are just a few examples of the positive impacts of strength training:

  • Metabolic functions are boosted. Your ability to handle insulin and elevated blood glucose is significantly increased. Your risk of diabetes and all the secondary diseases that come with it are drastically reduced due to this greater handling capacity. . The impact for those who build even just a few pounds of muscle are actually far greater than those who just participate in aerobic sports. In fact, because of the increased carbohydrate consumption typically associated with prolonged aerobic training, metabolic resistance can actually be more likely, particularly in later years. This is truer for those with high training volume (e.g. marathon runners, triathletes etc.) who pile on the pasta, rice, carb gels and glucose drinks. Aerobic training certainly has a place but I would argue that the correct resistance training programme has far greater potency when it comes to metabolic health improvements.  It also causes less oxidative stress to the body.

 

  •  Your bone density greatly increases. Osteoporosis and bone disease is rife within Western society. The average person loses 1% of their bone mass every year from the age of 30 and quality of life is massively reduced in those who find moving painful because of bone demineralisation. Want to avoid fractures and severe bone degeneration? Get lifting and strengthening those bones alongside your muscles!

 

  •  Your immune system is dramatically improved. Strength training has been shown to have more of an immune boosting effect than traditional aerobic exercise.  The cortisol release from strength training is much lower than that of somebody hammering away on the treadmill every day. When people think about improving their immune function they think it’ll expose them to less frequent colds and tummy bugs. This is true, but the real value in regulating and managing your immune system is reducing your risk of the big time auto immune diseases, such as MS, ALS and even cancerous conditions in which the immune system is dramatically impaired or has become dysregulated. Many modern day health issues such as thyroid conditions, and arthritis are now considered to have an autoimmune/inflammatory component, so anything to improve your immune function puts you in a much healthier position.    Poor immune function even in earlier years is potentially a precursor to more serious issues later in life. Lymphatic tissue which carries a great deal of our immune cells has to rely on movement which acts as a pump.  Good nutrition and exercise in general are therefor not just a positive but an absolute essential if you want to live a healthy life.

 

  • Your neuromuscular health is improved.  Increased neural and nervous system adaptations come about as a result of training specific movement patterns with resistance, and greater neuromuscular health is associated with greater wellbeing, longevity and overall quality of life.  Improving the strength of your neuromuscular system not only improves your coordination but also has been shown to dramatically reduce the incidence of trips and falls in all populations (most significantly the elderly).  This increased neuromuscular activity has also been shown to upregulate certain genes which optimise oxygen uptake, brain health and the rebuilding of damaged or irregular tissue. Optimising your CNS is another underappreciated component of health!

 

There are many more points I could add to this list but just these few key ones should be enough to convince even the most stubborn of people that strength training is an absolute essential. Strength training is so much more than just improving body composition and it is an unfortunate fact that most people cannot see the true value and this is further compounded by the myriad of myths and misconceptions.  Many people are guilty of this misguided view, even many doctors!

 

Once you look past all the social media fitness models, bodybuilders and strongmen (the extremes), you can see that strength training, aside from nutrition, could actually prove to be mankind’s best, most powerful yet most underutilised medicine. It is for this very reason that I actively encourage everybody I love and care for to participate in some form of resistance training, irrespective of their age, gender or abilities and I would implore you to make a start as well!

 

David

 

Why Elitas Fitness Oaklands is the Best Gym in Chichester Part 2

In part 2 of our blog series explaining why Elitas Fitness Oaklands is the best membership gym in Chichester, we are continuing to focus on equipment provision.

 

As mentioned in part 1, we have a whole host of cable stations and selectorised machines.  They permit a huge degree of versatility in upper body training.  When ordering these machines we specified that every weight stack be equipped with two micro adjusters, each weighing one third the weight of an individual plate.  This means that on every weight stack in our gym there are two increments in between every weight plate, which is particularly useful for progression when performing less mechanically favourable exercises (i.e. exercises requiring only light weights).  For example, if you are performing a cable external shoulder rotation with two plates, in order to increase the load in most gyms you must make a 50% jump in weight to reach the third plate.  However, at Elitas Fitness Oaklands there are two intermediate weights to progress onto before going for the third plate.  Enabling people to progress in this way makes a huge difference to training results.

 

Our Watson Dumbbells

Our Watson Dumbbells

 

When choosing our gym equipment, one of the first things on our list was a set of Watson dumbbells.  Not all dumbbells are created equal, and these are the best of the best.  They are the most comfortable dumbbells to use: the knurling on the grip is coarse enough to optimise your performance but not sharp enough to cause damage to your hands.  They are also far smaller than other dumbbells when matched for weight, meaning you will never be limited by the size and awkwardness of your dumbbell.  The smaller size also permits you a much greater range of motion on certain exercises, which can really accelerate muscle growth while improving long term joint health.  These dumbbells are also calibrated to within a gram of their supposed weight.  I have worked in a gym in the past where a “40kg” dumbbell was actually heavier than a “42.5kg” dumbbell!  Due to their design, it is also impossible for Watson dumbbells to become loose or come apart, so you will never be tightening your dumbbells up in between sets or worrying about anything falling on your head while lifting!

 

Our entire gym floor area is covered with dense 12mm thick rubber matting.  This means you can drop dumbbells, deadlift and even perform Olympic lifts in any available space.  Underneath the dense rubber is a solid concrete floor, which means the surface is all flat and even.  Most gym floors suffer from dents and holes from dropped weights, meaning you can be squatting with one foot lower than the other or trying to deadlift with a bar that keeps rolling away from you.

 

England Rugby Team

England Rugby Team

 

We are not solely about weight training.  We also have a conditioning section consisting of Wattbikes and a Concept 2 rowing machine.  These are, in our opinion, the two most effective indoor conditioning tools available.  Wattbikes are the chosen indoor training tool for most of the world’s top cycling federations, as well as the top teams and athletes from other sports, such as the England rugby team.  They are second to none when it comes to the accuracy and reliability of the data they produce; whether you are measuring your peak power output or assessing left leg/right leg discrepancy following an injury.  We have achieved such outstanding fat loss results with clients at our personal training facility that Wattbikes were a must for our Chichester membership gym.

 

Wattbikes at Elitas

Wattbikes at Elitas

 

We have also included a number of specialist pieces of equipment and accessories that you will struggle to find anywhere else.  We have 14 separate pull-up stations, each of which provides a number of different grip positions.  A variety of pull-up grips is essential to optimise development of your upper back and elbow flexors.  Five of our pull-up stations are also two inches thick, which is great for developing grip and forearm strength: excellent for grappling sports such as BJJ and rugby.  Our adjustable pull-up handles, which double up as a dip station, also rotate freely.  This allows you to supinate your hands as you pull, enhancing recruitment of the biceps brachii and reducing the chance of developing over-use injuries at the elbow and shoulder.

 

Pull Up Bars

Pull Up Bars

 

Adding to the versatility of our gym, we possess the widest range of cable attachments possible: multiple width lat pulldown bars, a number of different cable row attachments, rotating triceps pushdown handles and many more.  We have also purchased multiple of the most popular attachments (ropes and single handles) to minimise the chance you will have to wait for anything in our gym.

 

Another often overlooked component of any gym is the variety of different bars.  We have two Eleiko Olympic weightlifting bars with perfect grip, oscillation and spin if you are serious about your weightlifting.  We also have two Eleiko powerlifting bars, with a much deeper knurling for a stronger grip.  These will never bend out of shape from heavy lifting!  We know how important variety is so we also have a safety bar and a trap bar from Watson.  These add variety to your squat and deadlift and the safety bar enables you to squat with upper body injuries.  It is also more comfortable to perform certain assistance exercises with, such as good mornings.

 

Eleiko Barbell

Eleiko Barbell

 

With all of this fancy gym equipment, it is easy to overlook the absolute basics; however, we know how important these are to your training experience.  We have more than enough barbell collars (along with a mountain of spares!) and every rack has a full set of weight plates, so you will never have to waste time hunting around the gym only to find someone has then stolen your bar!  We have provided weight plates going down into increments as small as 0.5kg, so you can always select the exact weight you need and make tiny jumps.  We also have a good provision of boxes and steps: these seemingly insignificant additions permit endless variations of barbell movements as well as enabling the vertically challenged to reach the chin up bars!

 

Our Watson Trap Bar

Our Watson Trap Bar

 

Our gym was set up by experienced strength and conditioning coaches who all happen to be gym rats themselves.  It was not set up by men in suits.  Our insight into what is important and what is normally neglected has enabled us to put together the perfect facility for effective training.

 

Part 3 is coming soon, where I will continue to show you what makes this the best gym in Chichester.

 

If you would like to come in for a chat about training then please contact us on [email protected] or 01243 920536.

 

Why Elitas Fitness Oaklands is the Best Gym in Chichester Part 1

Welcome to part 1 of a short series of posts I am writing to show you why Elitas Fitness Oaklands is the best membership gym in Chichester.  Hopefully by the time you have read this series you will understand fully what this gym is about and why it is the perfect place to train for real results.

 

The gym is located in Oaklands Park, just to the north of Chichester town centre.  The park is a great setting, especially in the summer months, and there is a large free car park.  In this first part I will be focusing on the equipment in the gym.

 

Our gym equipment was all carefully chosen by us to provide everything required for optimal training.  We were not looking to maximise profitability of space or entice people in with gimmicks they do not need.  As a result, we have everything needed for training for fat loss, muscle and strength gains, rehabilitation and sports performance.

 

The first thing to notice is our provision for barbell movements.  The most bang-for-your-buck exercises are barbell movements – squats, deadlifts, presses, rows etc.  These exercises recruit the largest areas of muscle mass and are the easiest to progress with in terms of strength.  Although we are a small gym with a strictly capped membership, we have four full power racks.  Your average commercial gym will provide one rack (which is probably a half rack, limiting exercise selection, variation and safety) for over 2,000 members.  There are no 45 minute waits to be able to squat or bench press here!

 

 

SONY DSC

Watson Power Racks

 

We also have calibrated Eleiko bumper plates.  This means firstly that our 10kg and 15kg plates are the same large diameter as our 20kg plates, allowing members to safely deadlift with loads lighter than 60kg (a 20kg Olympic barbell with a 20kg plate on each end is the lightest weight that can be set up in most commercial gyms without the bar being too close to the floor).  This also means that our plates weigh what they say they weigh.  Eleiko plates are the gold standard of weightlifting equipment and are the chosen equipment for the Olympic Games.  Cheaper alternatives can be +/-10%!  This can cause real problems if you are trying to make small progressive increases to the weights you are lifting over time (as you should be!).  Additionally, our plates were used by the All Blacks at a training venue for the recent Rugby World Cup, which is pretty cool!

 

Olympics Day 3 - Weightlifting

Eleiko wiehgt plates at the London 2012 Olympics


 
For shoulder health, athletic performance, physical appearance and posture, upper back training is essential (trapezius, rhomboids etc.).  We spend our days slumped over desks: thoracic rounding, scapulae protracted, shoulders internally rotated.  To effectively train this area of muscle you need the right equipment.  We have a number of adjustable cable stations along with an incredibly wide and versatile range of cable attachments, making it easy to perform exercises such as cable retractions, face pulls, single arm rows, external rotations etc.  We also have specific machines dedicated to upper back training: T bar row, seated cable row, lat pulldown.

 

Probably the most important equipment that the majority of commercial gyms leave out is a range of posterior chain machines.  This is because they take up space and require competent coaching to use effectively.  Strengthening the posterior chain, specifically the glutes, hamstrings and lower back, is essential for health and longevity as well as athletic performance.  If you want to run faster and jump higher, this is the most important group of muscles to target.  If you want to prevent or fix injuries and pain then you must learn to use your hips correctly and activate and strengthen these muscles.  We have a glute ham raise, a reverse hyper, a 45 degree back extension and a lying leg curl.  This range of equipment is only usually found in the most elite strength and conditioning facilities and we are providing it to the public at our gym in Chichester along with all the support and coaching required from our team of expert coaches.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will continue to go through the equipment in the gym and how it sets us apart from anywhere else in Chichester and the surrounding area.

 

If you would like to come in for a chat about training then please contact us on [email protected] or 01243 920536.

 

Changing The Fitness Industry

Our first proper blog post is a bit of a rant about the personal training industry. It is not meant to offend any of the “fitness professionals” out there; its purpose is to educate fitness enthusiasts and gym users.

The fitness industry has a very bad name. Personal training/fitness instruction is not a well-respected profession. There is good reason for this; however it really should not be the case. I look at exercise and healthy eating as preventative medicine. I could cite a thousand peer reviewed studies showing these things to drastically reduce people’s chances of diseases and bad health. Implemented correctly, therefore, this would be hands down the greatest weapon against obesity and the rising costs of healthcare. However the professions responsible for delivering guidance and instruction in these areas are under-valued and therefore full of under-qualified people.

Personal training is an unregulated industry. There is no one regulatory body, but countless organisations offering certifications of variable (and often questionable) quality. These organisations enable virtually everybody who pays their fee to pass, even if they have to re-sit their multiple choice exams several times. You can become a fully qualified fitness instructor in two weeks, with no pre-requisites. This enables you to sit in a gym and tell everybody who comes through the door what they should be eating and what sort of exercise they should be doing. People in these positions spend more time telling people how to live healthy lives than GPs, and many of them are doing so off the back of a mere two weeks of relevant education!

To become a qualified personal trainer usually takes around five weeks or can be completed at weekends or via a distance learning arrangement. This qualification entitles people to be insured to construct a comprehensive lifestyle package for any client. They essentially have total control over everything from what their client eats and drinks to what time they go to bed! Of course compliance with what they advise is never 100%, but the client will listen to and have faith in what they are being told otherwise they would not be paying their trainer. Is it right that the individual with this much control over another person’s lifestyle is often basing their judgements merely on the things they picked up during a five week course?

In most industries, the job itself is an indicator of a certain level of competence, education and experience. Holding the position means you have successfully passed an interview and maybe some sort of assessment centre, beating other candidates to the role. However many gyms these days run their personal training service on a rental basis. Each personal trainer they employ pays £X per week or month to the gym (regardless of how successful they are) and keeps the money paid to them by their clients. As a result, the gym has no selection criteria and will allow any personal trainer to operate in their facility regardless of their education and experience. The more trainers clogging up their gym floor, the more money they receive for doing nothing.

What is attracting bright young people to this industry right now? It is certainly not the academic challenge. Courses are spoon-fed and, as I mentioned above, do not take long. In addition, the rewards are not great. How many straight-A students would turn down the opportunity of a six-figure salary working in finance or medicine to sit in a gym earning close to minimum wage?

I feel I could go on writing forever on this topic. It is a subject that really gets to me; however I will cut it here because most people have probably already stopped reading!

If you do not fancy handing your body over to an under-qualified practitioner with little or no experience for a series of trial and error experiments, take a look at our website and come and pay us a visit. Whereas most trainers view their fitness qualifications as both the beginning and end of their education, we are different. We bring to the table years of experience (in commercial gyms, professional sporting environments and research settings) and a whole host of qualifications from a range of institutes, including one of the leading sport and exercise science research departments in the world, Bath University, and currently the world’s leading strength and conditioning expert, Charles Poliquin. Despite this, we do not look at ourselves as the finished article. Our learning has only just begun. We believe education in our industry should be a lifelong quest (not two to five weeks!). Nobody fully understands the human body and how it works. Only now, after years of studying, are we confident that we understand enough for people to put their health in our hands. Do yourself a favour and be smart when choosing a personal trainer.