“You can’t have everything sadly,” says Héloïse Nangle, COO of Core Collective. “Are you trying to lose fat? Are you focused on gaining muscle? Are you trying to improve your endurance? You will be far more successful if you focus on one specific goal only.
“For example, the training processes involved in losing fat or gaining muscle are very different and do not mix well with each other,” she continues. “Improvements in your strength profile won’t be huge if you are doing too much endurance or cardio work, so if you want to gain muscle, you will need to do less. Too much cardio can actually hamper your muscle gain by slowing recovery and burning calories that your body needs for the process of building muscle.“
That doesn’t mean you have to cut out cardio completely, though. “One to two sessions a week is normally the right number to maintain cardiovascular conditioning and help with fat loss, but long periods of steady state cardio can be detrimental to your strength gains.”
Strength training is all based around a concept called progressive overload. “This is where you are continually increasing the demands on the musculoskeletal system to make gains in strength, and endurance,” Nangle says. “Simply put, in order to get stronger, you must continually make your muscles work harder than they’re used to, “but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time you train. Think simple compound lifts with unilateral work (on one leg, like lunges) to support these.”
Compound exercises like squats and deadlifts work multiple muscle groups with movements at multiple joints simultaneously, whereas isolation exercises, like bicep curls, “do not work as much stimulus, making it harder for you to apply progressive overload, meaning the rate of progression will be much slower,” so stick to the former. “This is what we do in our strength classes at Core Collective.”
The added bonus of incorporating compound lifts into your workout? You can fit it into less time. “You would need more isolation exercises to replace the work of a single compound lift,” says Nangle.
Just don’t over do it
“If you want to get stronger, you’ll need to challenge yourself and work to overload the muscles. But with that overload, you need to build in some rest time so the muscles can rebuild and adapt to the stress. Overtraining is going to impact the results you want. Rest and recovery are so important when it comes to making progress. To prevent overtraining, keep in mind that you can increase either frequency or intensity, but not both, or you will burn out quickly,” Nangle says.
“The best way to prevent this, particularly if you are new to strength training is to seek advice and work with someone who will provide a progressive programme for you that builds in variation that includes both phases of high-intensity training followed by phases of reduced workloads and increased recovery time,” she adds.
If you’re a total beginner to lifting weights, it’s best to begin under the watchful eye of a trainer to ensure you’re nailing your form and to avoid injury.
Over in Bethnal Green StrongHer, the capital’s first women only strength training facility, is a good starting point once gyms finally reopen their doors. Owners Sam and Tig (above) offer both personal training and group classes.
Want to really see jaw-dropping results ? Hit up The Foundry, a London gym with locations in Bank, Vauxhall and Old Street, which in normal times runs eight-week strength transformation programmes which include access to semi-private personal training and group classes, plus plenty of strength and fitness testing along the way - and I can personally vouch for the formula.