Day 71 of 90: Free Weights or Machines?


As a teenager my twin brother and I were given a multi-gym and although I’d love one now (complete with a man cave to store it in that is) back then we used it to hang our jackets on it (teenagers, huh?). Anyway, as I was in the gym today (it’s a new gym, today was my second day), in light of a conversation I had and the fact that this gym has a huge number of machines I thought I would blog about the difference between free weights and machines.

Now, although the purists in either camp would go for an either/or approach I’m more inclined to go for a both/and approach (this does not mean that I don’t have a preference – the bulk of my time is spent on free weights) and here’s why:

1. Machines a great for beginners, there is less risk of injury and beginners can sometimes feel intimidated my the sweaty metal-heads that occupy the weights area (in all honesty like all past-times there is a real fraternity when you get to know others…and people are often keen to give you tips if you ask them).

2. Machines are generally easy to use, isolate certain muscle groups (which are normally shown on the machines) and the adjustable weights means they are useful for time saving.


3. Free weights, may require more balance and coordination (and are more likely to result in injury if used incorrectly), but they are proven not only to provide bigger and quicker strength gains but they are also more versatile (particularly kettle bells) and can be taken with you (a set of multi-weight dumbbells can be stuck in the boot of the car, the shed or the office- try that with a multi gym).

4. Finally free weights have always made up the foundation of body building and strength training because, unlike machines, they are able to not only strengthen major muscles but the smaller stabilising muscle too. This makes them far superior.

Therefore, I would still advocate the use of machines (the chin up assist and tri-pull-down are probably my favourite ones right now) but I would also encourage everyone who is interested in strength training to familiarise themselves with free weights as they are the bread and butter of muscle building.

Early Morning Snack: a banana (I couldn’t sleep, I was up at 4am)
Pre-Workout: a tablespoon of peanut butter and a tablespoon of honey (the honey was for energy – it wards of tiredness)
Post-Workout: all-in-one shake
Breakfast: porridge, banana and mixed nuts
Snack: a tangerine
Lunch: chicken breast, mushroom, broccoli, cottage cheese, tomato and celery
Snack: a tablespoon of peanut butter
Dinner: lean beef and vegetable chilli and mixed veg
Snack: a mango
Evening shake: whey
Snack: 2 carrots


Day 65 of 90: Compound Interest – More Muscle in Less Time


Although, I normally double my training time on Saturdays, this Saturday I have to go away and therefore, I can only spend 45-60 mins in the gym. In times like this, and in light of the fact that I’ve worked all of my major muscle groups this week, I will aim at a full body workout, focusing on big weights and big moves. You see, the benefit of doing compound movements is that although the primary focus is on a muscle group other muscles are at play too (unlike isolation movements) and the benefit of lifting big weight means increased strength. So, in no particular order, here are a list of the moves I will be hitting tommorow (since I did back today I will leave dead lifts to the end, that way I can ditch them if I run out of time – if I do hit them I’ll stick to my normal weight) (all this information plus exercise tutorials with pictures comes from

Main Muscle Group : Shoulders [barbell push press]
Detailed Muscle Group : Traps
Other Muscle Groups : Triceps , Upper Legs
Type : Olympic Weight Lifting
Mechanics : Compound
Equipment : Barbell
Difficulty : Intermediate

Main Muscle Group : Chest [chest press]
Detailed Muscle Group : Full
Other Muscle Groups : Triceps , Shoulders
Type : Strength
Mechanics : Compound
Equipment : Barbell , Bench
Difficulty : Beginner

Main Muscle Group : Back [barbell deadlift]
Detailed Muscle Group : Upper Back
Other Muscle Groups : Lower Legs , Upper Legs
Type : Strength
Mechanics : Compound
Equipment : Barbell
Difficulty : Intermediate

Main Muscle Group : Upper Legs [squat]
Other Muscle Groups : Glutes , Lower Legs
Type : Strength
Mechanics : Compound
Equipment : Barbell
Difficulty : Intermediate

Main Muscle Group : Triceps [tricep press]
Detailed Muscle Group : Lower Chest
Other Muscle Groups : Chest
Type : Strength
Mechanics : Compound
Equipment : Barbell , Bench
Difficulty : Beginner

Main Muscle Group : Biceps [barbell concentration curl]
Other Muscle Groups : Forearm
Type : Strength
Mechanics : Isolation
Equipment : Barbell , Bench
Difficulty : Beginner

TODAY’S FOOD LOG (carb-loading day)

Post-Workout: all-in-one
Breakfast: porridge and mixed nuts
Snack 1: a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack 2: plain popcorn
Lunch: lean beef and vegetable chilli with brown rice
Snack 1: a grapefruit
Snack 2: half a cup of berries
Dinner: as lunch + spinach
Smoothie: nectarine and red berry
Snack: plain popcorn
Evening shake: whey
Snack: some dates and dried apricots

Note: the only reason there are so many carbs is because this is to replenish my body for a week of low carb eating and heavy training. This amount of carbs, without the former, is likely to lead to weight gain.

Day 64 of 90: BIG eats – Getting in Shape Does Not Mean Starving Yourself


When I first began working out I used to think that to get in shape meant drastically cutting my food intake. This, however, is a myth which is not only damaging to moral but leaves you feeling constantly hungry, slows down your metabolism and reduces your ability to gain or maintain muscle (muscle is an active tissue which burns more calories even when your doing nothing and gives you body tone). So, instead of just recording my food log, I thought I would go through a typical meal giving some of the nutritional benefits for eating what I was eating.

Lunch: beef cubes, broccoli, tomato, mushroom (all of the aforementioned were oven cooked), cottage cheese and chilli.

Lean Beef: Whilst, many people try to avoid red meat, lean red meat can be filled with nutritional goodness (except if you deep-fat-fry it, of course – interestingly enough, unhealthy preparation and the fat content of beef burgers is usually why beef gets such a bad press).

Beef contains vitamin B and zinc which is great for the production of muscle-building testosterone, iron (iron deficiency can cause a lack of energy and anaemia), protein for muscle and regardless of the animal’s diet contains a similar fat profile. This means that although, you might want to go for free-range, organic, grass-feed beef it makes little nutritional difference which is great, particularly when you are unable to find out the source.

Broccoli/Mushroom and Tomato: All of these food are superfoods in their own right. Between them they are high in fibre (which helps with weight loss), packed with protein (for muscle), maintain blood sugar (to stop tiredness), suppress hunger, detoxify the body, aid with bone health, boost the immune system and help your body use oxygen efficiently. Not to mention their so low in calories that you can eat any amount at every meal – if you want to, that is.

Chilli: Honestly, I just add it for flavour but again it relieves stress (weight training can physiologically increase stress levels), boosts you metabolism (meaning you’ll burn food faster) and helps with blood circulation (vital when training) – the vitamin c also, helps boost your immunity to disease that’s why you never find an Indian with a cold (ok that part might not be true).

Cottage cheese (low fat variety): Not only is this stuff versatile (you can use it with sweet or savoury dishes) it is packed with protein (for muscle), calcium (for bones) and phosphorus (for energy).

So, as you can see, good healthy lean foods aid your healthy lifestyle not hinder it.

Pre-Workout: a boiled egg
Post-Workout: all-in-one shake
Breakfast: porridge and mixed nuts followed by a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack: a grapefruit
Lunch: as above and a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack: a boiled egg
Dinner: chicken and vegetable soup
Smoothie: nectarine abs mixed berries
Snack: a tablespoon of peanut butter
Evening Shake: whey and milk

Note: since I have reduced muscle mass, I have decided to stop intermittent fasting and have now begun having a pre-workout snack.

Day 58 of 90: Beginning with Breakfast – The Most Important Meal of the Day


Although, it is popular among some to skip breakfast, it is a meal that should not be missed as it is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast not only helps kick-start the metabolism, reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, it also provides the essential vitamins and nutrients needed for the mind and body to function throughout the day. So, here are some answer to some FAQ’s about breakfast:

1. When should I have breakfast? Ideally, breakfast should be eaten within an hour or two of getting up, there is, however, an exception. I will get up at 5 am and will have a black coffee in the morning (to suppress hunger and give me an energy boost), an all-in-one protein shake after training (7 am – 8.15 am) and breakfast at 9 am (Mon-Fri). This is because training on an empty stomach enables the body to burn fat. If you train with food in your system your body will first burn that before going into the fat reserves.

2. What should I eat? Well, I would recommend that you should try to have all of the macro nutrients (protein, healthy fat and carbohydrates – carbs are essential if breakfast is eaten straight after training as it is needed to build muscle).  So what does that look like:

Lean Protein: eggs, protein shakes, kippers (if you can have them for breakfast – I can’t) and lean meat can be added to omelettes or scrambled eggs.
Healthy fat: one hundred percent natural peanut butter (you can get it from health stores or bodybuilding websites), milk, low fat Greek yogurt (unsweetened), mixed nuts, seeds and fish (again, if you can stomach it).
Slow burn carbs: wholewheat porridge oats (not instant), shredded wheat and bran flakes are good.

3. What Should I Avoid? Avoid breads (particularly croissants, bagels and white bread), cooked breakfasts (a healthy alternative is lean turkey bacon, mushrooms, tomato, a little beans, homemade burger and poached/boiled egg), sugary cereals (they’ll give you an initial sugar rush and later in the day, a come down), breakfast bars, protein bars and muesli (these are often filled with junk).

4. What do you have? Even though I like to keep my diet varied I’m quite habitual when it comes to breakfast (and lunch). After training I have a all- in-one protein shake and then I have porridge – it is a nutritional super-food (usually with fruit, some kind of nut and occasionally mixed seeds and goji berries).


(Today’s – porridge, raspberry and mixed nuts)


(Tommorow – porridge, organic Greek strawberry yogurt, with raspberries and mixed nuts. If you do it the day before and put in the fridge it softens the oats – delicious!)

5. How much should I eat? It is often said that you should have breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. This is because you have all day to digest what you had at breakfast and if you do manual work or workout you body should burn everything that you’ve taken in. Personally, though, I wouldn’t go mad at breakfast because it will make you feel lethargic and put a lot of strain on the digestive system. A good breakfast is in but a buffet breakfast is definitely out.

Ok peeps, hope that helps, here’s today’s food log.

TODAY’S FOOD LOG (no food from 7pm till after workout)
Post-workout: all-in-one shake
Breakfast: as above with a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack 1: half a mango
Snack 2: an apple
Snack 3: a pear
Lunch: omelette (mushroom, chilli, onion, garlic, coriander, spinach and sun-dried tomato) with salad


Snack 1: beef cubes
Snack 2: pineapple, mango and raspberry smoothy


Evening meal: tofu and tuna (two very lean sources of protein) salad and homemade hummus


Snack: a tablespoon of peanut butter
Protein shake: whey

Day 51 of 90: One Move Workout


I’ve got a friend, he’s doing an MA in physiotherapy so he can’t really afford the gym, supplements or protein shakes at the moment but he is ripped… Now, like me, you might be asking how? Well my mate Bellamy does 1000 press ups a day.

You see the humble press up is a compound exercise which engages the chest, shoulders, triceps, legs (because of the plank position) and even the abs. Having said that even if I could do a 1000 press ups a day (I can’t, I’ve tried) I think the repetition would kill me and take the fun out of training. Instead I have incorporated a set (until failure) when I get up in the mornings and 100 a day after my gym session (4 sets of 25) which, I’m hoping to increase a little as time goes on. While I’m not ever planning on doing 1000 I don’t think I can afford to avoid such a valuable exercise, the question is though, can you? And therefore, you might want to consider sticking it in somewhere in your training routine even if you don’t, like my mate, use it as your one move workout (even though it’s not recorded I did my 100 today ).

Post-Workout: all-in-one shake
Breakfast: porridge with mixed nuts and banana
Snack 1: boiled egg and an apple
Snack 2: an apple and a peach
Lunch: Greek salad (chicken – the top one)


Snack 1: tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack 2: cooked chicken cubes
Dinner: salmon and squid rings in chilli butter with egg salad followed by mango and vanilla Greek yogurt with mixed nuts.


Evening shake: whey
Snack 1: mango and vanilla Greek yogurt with mixed nuts.
Snack 2: 2 tangerines

Day 50 of 90: Curing Insomnia


Yesterday I spoke about the importance of sleep and how muscle is actually built as much on the pillow as it is on the bench (link). So after a couple of good nights sleep I thought I would give some tips on curing insomnia. Something I suffered with for years. So, in no particular order, this is what I’ve found that helps:

1. Keep the bed for sleeping (well and of course…:-): watching TV, reading, working or playing video games in bed will mean that your subconscious will associate the bedroom with activity and not rest. What you want is to walk in and your mind to automatically begin to wind down because it knows exactly what it’s there for.

2. Have a bath: I shower in the mornings, however, every now and then I will take a nice relaxing bath which helps chill me out gets rid of any muscle soreness, gives me an opportunity to do some reading and gets me ready for bed.

3. Do not have anything to eat or drink up to an hour before: obviously if you eat something, particularly if it’s heavy, sour or spicy, you will struggle to sleep and could end up with indigestion or heart burn. Fluids will also have you going to the toilet…The only exception I would make is a little water bottle on your bedside cabinet. This will help with any late night dehydration but sip it rather than glugging it and make sure you go to the toilet, whether you feel like it or not, immediately before bed. (You’ll be amazed at how your increase in protein and water, whilst training, will have you getting up all night if you let it, so empty the tank when you can).

4. Avoid caffeine for two/three hours before bed: caffeine is a stimulant which, is ok in small doses, but has some negative side effects. One of which is it keeps you awake. I try to limit myself to one cup in the mornings and NEVER have it after mid-day.

5. Try a hot glass of milk or a malt drink: again you don’t want this too close to getting in bed but it is a renowned natural cure for insomnia.

6. Skip the exercise: when I was younger I would aim to do 50 press ups before bed. The problem with this, however, is that it gets the adrenaline pumping which disrupts sleep. You are better getting up 10 minutes earlier to do your press ups (or whatever you do) and bit o doing anything before bed.

7. Turn your phone on silent: ok unless you work for MI5 (or your on call or something) you don’t need your phone on. In fact, using electrical devices, like tablets and smartphones, before bed is known for significantly disrupting sleep.

8. Sort your life out: basically, all the bins should be out, your clothes should be ironed and the lunches made before you get into bed.

9. Have regular bedtimes: these do not have to be rigid but if your body knows you normally go to bed anywhere between 9:30 -10:30pm and you get up at 5am most days, then it will adjust accordingly…On rest/cardio days I do not set an alarm at all but still end up getting up somewhere from 5:30am – 7am.

10. Keep a notepad an pen at hand: it’s amazing that while preparing to sleep you remember the weirdest things and have your most creative ideas (maybe it’s just me then). If you don’t note them down you will forget them or you might end up thinking about them all night.

Added to this I would remove any noise (like ticking clocks), put in black out curtains and incorporate some physical training into my life (particularly if you do a non-physically demanding job). If you do this hopefully you should be able to turn your back on insomnia and get yourself a good night’s sleep. It worked for me – normally.

TODAY’S FOOD LOG (no food from 7pm yesterday till after workout – today is my carb-loading day)

Post-workout: all-in-one shake
Snack: plain popcorn
Breakfast: porridge, goji berries (it’s a carb super food link) and walnuts
Snack 1: a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack 2: plain popcorn
Lunch: chicken breast with brown rice and veg (kidney beans, broccoli and spinach) with chilli.


Snack 1: as above minus chicken
Snack 2: a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack 3: plain popcorn
Dinner: Mexican chicken and vegetable (onion, celery, mushrooms, kidney beans, chilli and carrot) spicy rice
Evening shake: whey
Snack 1: mango and vanilla Greek yogurt
Snack 2: 2 tangerines and a peach
Snack 3: a small bowl of cornflakes

Note: I wouldn’t normally do chest twice in the week but boxercise was cancelled and the bench was set up.

Day 46 of 90: Chest Workout


Although, I planned on posting the recipe for the turkey bits today I thought, since I had a conversation about this the other day, I would put up my chest workout.  While I am not saying this is the only way or even the best way to train chest hopefully it gives a little understanding of what a gym session, for me anyway, looks like. And might give someone somewhere some tips.



4 sets – 10 reps – 20 kg [plus bar weight an extra 20kg] (I normally start on 15kg to warm up but the bar was already loaded.  I managed 8/8/6/6 reps on this)


4 sets – 10 reps – 18/20/22/24 kg


4 sets – 10 reps – 11.5 kg (I prefer doing this than doing the dumbbell flys)


4 sets – 10 reps – 10/12.5/12.5/12.5 kg


4 sets – 25 reps


3 sets – to failure – 20 kg [inc bar weight]


This took about 50/55 mins and I did weighted uppercuts (4/6 kg dumbbells) instead of a rest period (just to keep the heart rate up and get me some pre-boxing training in) and I finished with 25 mins on the cross-trainer.


[all the gfx are from jefit which is a fantastic website/app for training] link

TODAY’S FOOD LOG (no food from 7pm till after workout)
Post-Workout: all-in-one shake
Breakfast: porridge with banana
Snack 1: turkey bits and a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack 2: fruit salad with almonds and Greek yogurt
Dinner: tuna and egg salad with spicy prawns
Snack 1: spicy prawns
Snack 2: a white grapefruit
Dinner: soy shepherd’s pie (minus the mash potato) with broccoli and spinach
Snack 1: a tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack 2: some pineapple
Evening shake: whey shake

Note to self: Although, I plan on tracking my progress at 30 day intervals (so the next one is on day 60), the fat burning seems to have slowed down. I might be wrong but, if that is the case I will have to see if I need to tweak my food routine or my training or both. I need to aim at eliminating the peanut butter after lunch time, anyway, because it is calorie dense and might be actually working against my goal which is lean muscle.