Author Archives: Kiara Johnson

Looking the goods while Training

cardio vascular trainingYep you too could look as groovy these two foxes while training… Ok that’s got nothing to do with what this post is about. It’s about cardiovascular training and getting that little bit more out of yourself.

The aim of cardiovascular training is to improve delivery of oxygen to working muscles. This is generally achieved by continuous performance of exercise over long periods and at less than maximal levels. Last week we spoke about some factors that influence our ability to improve in performance, for example progressive overload, specificity, individuality, adaptation and reversibility. These factors are all important for improving cardiovascular fitness.

Let’s say you wanted to train for a 10 km run fun, would you just go for a 45 run a couple of times a week? The answer is no! You need to progressively overload in order to get an adaptation from training. If you are training for a longer duration event, be it at 10 km fun run, your first triathlon, around the bay in a day etc you will need to improve your cardiovascular or aerobic fitness. There are a few ways to do this and it’s important that you do a combination of them.

There are two main forms of CV training used:

Continuous Training

For those of you looking for an increase in cardio respiratory fitness, large muscle groups are to be used continuously and rhythmically to gain benefit. You should:

  • Train this way regularly without cessation
  • Cross-train to ensure you do not get bored.
  • Always use the principle of program progression to ensure you do not injure yourself through ‘going too hard, too soon’.
  • Ensure a day’s rest between sessions to allow for the body to adapt and recover from the session.
  • Aim for 3 – 4 training sessions/week to achieve an increase in cardio respiratory fitness
  • Suitable for all fitness levels as the intensity of the exercise can be altered by use of target heart rates

Aerobic Interval Training

  • Alternating work with recovery periods at varying intervals
  • Work to rest ratio is important in adapting the training to different sports and overloading
  • Develops the three energy systems using variables such as: Intensity, duration of work period/distance, and volume of work and recovery periods.

These two are the main forms of cardiovascular training which you can adopt in order to improve your aerobic fitness (i.e. training for longer distance events). It is important to use a combination of these methods and constantly overload your program to ensure an adaptation.

Differing Your Resistance Training Methods

weights funny baby weight liftingBeen going to the gym for a while and sick of doing the same program and the same exercises?

You could try a totally different approach like mixed implement training or go with a more functional approach.

Or if you want to stick with what you know but add a new twist here are some different strength training methods to mix up your program.

You can mix these different methods with working over time rather than reps for a different stimulus again.


  • Single set with two or more exercises
  • Can train opposing muscle groups
    • Little or no rest in between
    • Eg Bench press followed by lat pull down
  • Can train the same muscle group or body part
    • One set of several different exercises performed in succession
    • Little or no rest in between
  • This method is good if you are limited on time because you can move back and forth through exercises quite quickly (make sure it’s not peak time in the gym though because you will find your machine will disappear quite quickly!)


  • Full range of movement (ROM) mixed with partial ROM exercises, i.e. 7-10 reps top half, 7-10 reps bottom half, 7-10 full ROM.
  • Higher repetitions are used with lighter weights
  • Effective for body fat reduction and muscular development


  • Single joint movement followed by a multi-joint movement, for example triceps pushdown followed by a bench press
  • Produces high levels of metabolic and cellular stress for hypertrophy, strength and muscular endurance
  • This form of training fatigues the nervous system very quickly from intense nature of the loading, so this form is not to be used frequently.


  • Series of exercises arranged in a particular order
  • Time and space efficient
  • Suitable for beginners – does not develop specific strength or aerobic fitness goals
  • Circuit Training develops muscular endurance, aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity, muscular strength and decreases body fat while increases lean muscle mass


  • Working on eccentric strength (greater than concentric strength)
  • Eg. Chin up – assisted on way up, then lowering as slow as possible.
  • Note: will cause a great deal of soreness and should only be used by more advanced lifters

There are many advantages and disadvantages of each of the methods name above. Trying out some new methods will hopefully increase your motivation in the gym which at the end of the day will give you the biggest spur to achieve better results. Make sure you have suitable supervision when undertaking the more advanced methods especially negative, these will often require more than one spotter, and be prepared to be feeling sore!

Get nice and stretchy with some Flexibility Training


Flexibility Training

A lot gets said about improving flexibility. Well… What exactly is flexibility?

Flexibility is the ability of a joint to move throughout a full range of movement. Muscles surrounding the joints are usually responsible for poor flexibility so it is important to stretch regularly to allow for muscle tension reduction and a greater range of motion to be achieved.

So what is the best way for you to increase your range of motion and flexibility?

The activity you are performing will help dictate which type of stretching method may be most beneficial for you. All of the methods listed below have their advantages and disadvantages and are important during different phases of exercise. The different types of stretching methods are:

Static this involves holding a stretch at the farthest most comfortable point. This is the safest and most common type of stretching.

Dynamic – is an activity specific stretch that involves moving a joint through full range of movement in a more movement focused approach. It may be performed after static stretching but must be performed before activity.

Passive This type of stretching uses another person or object to take a joint through range of movement without any effort from the subject. It is generally used in the rehabilitation process where one or more muscle groups may be weak.

Ballistic – This type of stretching involves bouncing or rhythmic movement, which takes a muscle to the maximum joint limit. It is not recommended to perform these types of stretches, as they do not allow the muscles enough time to adapt to the lengthening which sets off the stretch reflex, causing tension of the muscle and increased susceptibility to injury.

PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) – This type of stretching involves the contraction and relaxation of muscles in a stretch position. The theory behind PNF is that once the muscle has contracted, there should be less resistance to the stretch, allowing the joint to move in a greater range of motion. PNF should be done with a partner so that the subject can apply force to something and then the partner increase the stretch after contraction occurs. These must be performed after the muscles are warm, with a partner and contraction held for up to 10 seconds.

The most important time to undertake a flexibility program is after exercise as research shows that this is the time when the muscles are most susceptible to lengthen as a result of the muscle being completely warm.

Stretching has many benefits to many people. Stretching increases the joint range of motion/movement; as a result of this the risk of injury is dramatically decreased. Stretching can decrease stiffening/tightening of muscles after exercise which helps promote recovery.  An improvement in muscle coordination between muscle groups is also another benefit of stretching.

Having an increased range of motion can also aid in being able to achieve a more optimal posture. Studies have also shown that flexibility training can help to improve maximal force production and 1RM performance. In other words stretching can make you stronger!

Flexibility training is important for all ages however the appropriate method needs to be taken into consideration. The most important time to stretch is post exercise after which the muscles are completely warmed up. The most common and safest type of stretching is static. Stretching has many benefits, including decreasing the risk of injury by increasing the joint range of movement. So make sure after your next session you get nice and stretchy!

Stay tuned for our flexibility ebook that is coming out soon. It will help you to get the most out of a full body stretching program.

image source.

Caffeine: Part 4 Are the negative side effects of caffeine enough to warrant concern?

Last week we discussed moderate negative side effects of caffeine, this week we will discuss some of the more serious side effects you can suffer from use of caffeine

Anyone in a high risk group should be aware of the severe negative effects. People in this high risk group who should minimise caffeine intake include people with mood disorders, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, chronic intestinal issues, work night shift or women who are pregnant… or even men that are pregnant! 🙂

The negative effect of caffeine in increasing heart rate can create problems for people with heart conditions, and in high doses, caffeine can induce irregular heartbeats in healthy people.

The physical dependence on caffeine can cause excessive sleepiness and ultimately cause sleep disorder. Caffeine can disrupt sleep cycles, causing less deep restful sleep, particularly when the person drinks caffeinated beverages within a few hours of bedtime. So while one person may be using coffee to get started in the morning, one reason they might need this extra boost because they are getting inadequate sleep the night before. This is in big issue for night shift workers who constantly use caffeine to try to adjust to the time of day.

People with any panic or anxiety disorders are much more prone to reacting badly from increased heart rate. Even in small doses, caffeine can create panic attacks and interfere with medications taken to calm the system.

People with high blood pressure or high blood sugar levels need to be very weary of consuming caffeine as both of these things are raised after intake. The liver releases glucose into the bloodstream after adrenalin has been released from the adrenal glands. This rise in blood glucose levels can be dangerous for diabetics.

Overall caffeine can cause a range of moderate to severe side effects. It is extremely important that people in a high risk category that have certain physical conditions will tend to have more problems with caffeine and should definitely minimise intake. On the other hand people who are healthy and drink caffeine occasionally will only have minimal side effects. So should you be using caffeine to boost your performance? Let us know what you think.

Caffeine: Part 3 Are the moderate negative side effects of caffeine enough to warrant concern?

too much coffeeThe past couple of weeks we have spoken about how caffeine positively affects sporting performance. There is however some negative side effects which need to be discussed. Negative side effects of caffeine can be broken down into moderate and serious side effects. This week we will discuss some of the moderate negative effects, and next Tuesday some of the more serious side effects so keep an eye out for that one.

Firstly caffeine is a stimulant and it will elevate heart rate, increase blood flow, and raise body temperature. Caffeine enters the blood stream where the brain detects and stimulates the adrenal glands to release adrenalin. This release in adrenalin will increase heart rate. The liver is then stimulated where glucose is released into the blood stream. As a result blood glucose levels go up and the pancreas then releases insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. This process triggers hypoglycaemia.

Caffeine is a diuretic which causes frequent urination and a reduction in water intake which can also cause a stomach upset. A stomach upset can also be due to the fact that caffeine contains around 208 acids.

While we may feel more alert and energised, caffeine intake can cause headaches. Small amounts of caffeine taken daily can create physical dependence on caffeine. For example if a regular coffee drinker fails to drink their daily dose of caffeine, they can end up with headaches. Withdrawal from caffeine can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending upon how much caffeine a person generally consumes.

All though there are negative side effects to caffeine most of the studies correlate the negative effects of caffeine with high caffeine intake, and with certain physical conditions or groups of people who tend to have more problems with caffeine. A small amount of caffeine intake by a completely healthy person may have minimal effect. People with certain conditions, or who consume large amounts of caffeine, may suffer more negative side effects.

So there are some minor negative effects of caffeine such as frequent urination and headaches; however a small amount from time to time will not be a major issue. A healthy person drinking caffeine occasionally will have a minimal effect on health. Next week we will discuss the more serious negative side effects of caffeine. So now you can hopefully make an informed decision as to wether to use it to help you improve your performance.

Why The Fat Burning Zone Is A Load Of Crap!

NoEver heard people talk about the ‘fat burning’ zone before? Ever heard people say that if you walk you will burn more ‘fat’ than if you run? Sound too good to be true…. That’s because it is! This mythical ‘fat burning’ zone is inferring that exercising at a low heart rate (60-70% of max heart rate) will burn more fat than working at a high intensity.

During exercise we use a combination of fat, carbohydrates and protein to give us energy. Fats are a vast energy source as we have enough to last us around 5 days. We mainly use fats as a dominant fuel source at low intensities because they break down quite slowly. Carbohydrates (stored in the muscle and liver as glycogen) are used at higher intensities because their break down rate is faster. Protein provides a minimal contribute to energy during exercise.

So yes it is true that we use fats at low intensities and carbohydrates as high intensities, however when trying to burn fat it’s not what fuel we are using that’s important it’s the total amount of calories we burn that really matters. The higher the level of exercise intensity, the greater the amount of energy required to fuel the exercise. Therefore, high intensity exercise will burn a greater amount of total calories than lower intensity exercise, it is this total calorie burn that we should be most concerned about.

A study that compared a 20 minute jog compared to a 60 minute walk found we burn over double the amount of calories during the jog. See the results below:

Low Intensity Exercise
60-70% MHR
60min (Walking)

Total Calories Burned – 277
% Calorie Burn from Fats – 50%
Total Fat Calories Burnt – 138.5

High Intensity Exercise

80-85% MHR (Heart rate Max)

60min (Running)

Total Calories Burned – 986
% Calorie Burn from Fats – 25%

Total Fat Calories Burnt – 246.5

Whilst the lower intensity exercise burns a greater percentage of fat, the total amount of fat burnt in the higher intensity exercise is greater due to the substantial increase in total calories burnt.

Despite running burning more fat than walking, it’s not for everyone! It is important that you slowly build up to running if you are not already a runner. So next time you go for a walk try incorporating some intensity, for example try jogging for 30 – 60 seconds every couple of minutes. Try extending the length of the jog every time so you can eventually build up to jogging for the entire duration.

Research shows that it is not what fuel you are burning, whether it’s fats or carbohydrates, but in fact the amount of calories you are burning. As we have learned lower intensity exercise does burn a greater amount of fat but higher intensity exercise burns more calories which is more important. In order to build up to being able to jog continuously or work up to these higher intensity forms of exercise it is however important to start small and work your way up.