Published in Fitness Science Annual 2008

The Ideal Personal Training Experience

To provide the ideal personal trainer experience for a client you first have to realize that every client is different from both a physical and mental standpoint. Therefore, a trainer has to have a wide spectrum of knowledge and resources to draw from to create this ideal experience.

Every client that enters your training facility should have an initial assessment before ever picking up a weight or engaging in physical activity. The main goal of this assessment should be to establish a rapport with the client so they will feel comfortable training in your presence. Many people have issues with working out with people around, yet are incapable of writing out and following an intelligently designed fitness program for themselves. The assessment should include taking measurements (if the client is comfortable with doing so) and a detailed discussion regarding short- and long-term goals, while also paying attention to any special medical needs. Always ask the client if he/she has any health problems or concerns, as many people can be too shy to share this vital information with you without you first asking. During the assessment it should be clearly stated that the client has come to you for work and, although you can still be social, the exercise and commitment to it must come first. With these goals and any other information provided now understood, the actual workout plan should be put together with the client.

Although each workout plan should be different from person to person there are some general themes I believe should be normally followed for a beginner, intermediate and advanced trainee. For the beginner, workouts should be full body. Making sure all the major musculatures of the body are being trained is very important for optimal success on any training program. Many trainees, regardless of experience, will not undergo any sort of leg training due to the demanding nature of leg exercises. A competent trainer should know training the legs allows for the greatest hormonal output from exercise and, due to the size of the muscles involved, has the greatest capacity for growth. There is no better way to ensure the legs are worked just as hard as the rest of the body than employing full body workouts, at least at the beginning.

As we move to the intermediate trainee, I believe a split routine should be pre-dominantly used. An intermediate trainee who has a couple years of weight training experience will be much stronger than a beginner and this increased strength will make his/her recovery longer between exercise sessions. With a split routine, you can concentrate on every body part on their own designated day and, in most cases, have a full week of recovery before training them again.

An advanced trainee should be the greatest challenge for any personal trainer. In most cases, the trainee will know a great deal about how they react to exercise and will also be close to their maximum genetic potential. Through my limited experience thus far with such people (most are truly nowhere close in terms of physical development and knowledge to consider themselves advanced) is to find exercises, combinations of exercises or any new stimulus for their body to create an adaptive response. Training methods and techniques, such as Zone Training, SuperSlow, Fast Reps, Max Contraction, Pump Sets, Powerlifting and many other forms, should all be understood by a good personal trainer and used randomly and in conjunction with one another to bring a new experience to the advanced trainee.

Intensity and volume are two hotly debated issues in resistance training. Experience has shown me most do not have the mentality to get great results from an overly abbreviated routine or one set until failure, which is standard for High Intensity Training (HIT) workouts. On the other hand, left to their own devices most trainees will use excessive amounts of volume that will ultimately wear down their body and their immune system. This will be just as counter productive as not doing enough to stimulate gains. Finding a proper relationship between intensity and volume and how it relates to each client is needed to achieve best results and create the ideal experience.

After the original assessment is performed and you have determined where your trainee is in terms of their development, the client should then become comfortable with the training facility. This is best done by providing a simple tour. During this tour, I believe it is advantageous to demonstrate the exercises they will be doing and then have them perform the exercise with very light weights so they get a feel for the form you expect from them. This will further build their confidence in you as a trainer and allow for less wasted time during their natural learning curve through their first few sessions. A break in period of a few sessions where intensity is purposely limited is needed to limit excessive muscular soreness and to slowly ramp up the intensity to maximum levels within the limits of the client. This process should be done within a couple of weeks.

The training facility itself should always be clean, accessible and well-lit. Although everyone will prefer different temperatures, it should not be excessively hot or cold. Some people do not like mirrors in a gym because they do not like to see themselves working out in the mirror. I feel the added benefit of being able to see your form outweighs the worry about how you look. All the free weights or machines that require plate loading should be in the same area, thus keeping all the plates together. This allows for quicker weight changing and is easier on the trainer. If the gym has a circuit of selectorized machines, there are two acceptable ways to position them. The first is to have all the machines pertaining to a particular muscle group in the same area. The second is in a HIT circuit fashion, which has the machines normally in a line from exercises that use the larger muscles of the body, usually starting with the hips, to those that are smallest in the body, normally the muscles of the upper arms or neck. Either setup should eliminate time taken to move between machines. This logical order keeps the intensity of the workout high. This is, of course, assuming you have the space to do so.

Although creating the perfect workout plan or supplying a perfect workout facility for every client is an unrealistic goal, taking these steps, as well as being observant to the client and educated in proper applications of resistance training, should go a long way in creating the ideal personal training experience for anyone who trains under your guidance.

Michael Petrella – 2008
Fitness Science Annual


Only 3 Things You Need To Know about Strength Training and Weight Loss

no weight gain, but weight loss, energy expenditure is higher than energy intake

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

During this energy deficit, the human body needs to supply the energy needed to equalize the deficit from its’ own energy sources.

These sources can be

  • stored body fat, the body uses the stored body fat to produce energy
  • stored glycogen, the body uses the glycogen stored in the glycogen stores in the muscle and liver to produce energy
  • muscle tissue, the body breaks down its’ own muscle tissue to produce energy (the ones who have seen pictures of people who are starving know what it looks like)

Back to the topic, how can you create an energy deficit?

Based on the discussion above, it’s clear that there are two mechanisms to create an energy deficit and influence weight loss

  • decrease energy intake
  • increase energy expenditure
  • number 3 would be, increase energy expenditure and decrease energy intake

How do I decrease energy intake (not only for weight loss)?

You can decrease energy intake by

  • reducing the food quantity or eat less
  • improving the food quality

Reducing the food quantity or eating less is a scary thought, I know. However, it’s a way to decrease energy intake. Reducing the food quantity refers to eating smaller serving sizes or less frequent.

Improving food quality refers to eat less high-caloric food and replace it with more low-caloric food. As a very simple example to make it more visible, 100 grams of neck steak from a pork has around 180 kcal (calories), while 100 grams of chicken breast has around 100 kcal (calories). The difference is purely that the neck steak from the pork has more fat than the chicken breast.

There are numerous examples, how changing the food choices can result in different energy intake. An elaborate discussion would go far beyond the scope of this article.

I guess the idea is clear.

How do I increase energy expenditure?

There are a couple of ways to increase energy expenditure, the most logical to me is physical activity.

As a side-note, I say the most logical, because I have heard people advising

  • ‘Reduce your room temperature, so your body has to produce more energy to increase the body temperature.’
  • ‘You can add a weight vest to daily activities, for example, shopping, this way your body expends more energy than normal.’
  • ‘Clean the house or do gardening, these activities burn extra calories.’

I think the list can go on and on.

I leave these advice un-commented, but I do think these pieces of advice are partly the reason why people don’t see the success, they would like to see.

Let’s focus in this article on the physical activity aspect.

Normal guidelines to physical activity are you can engage in

  • aerobic training (where energy is produced by using oxygen)
  • anaerobic training (where energy is produced in the absence of oxygen)

Without getting too much into the discussion of ‘cardio training vs strength training’, cardio training is an aerobic training and strength training is an anaerobic training.

While aerobic and anaerobic training has their benefits on weight loss, let’s focus on the benefits of strength training for weight loss.

How can Strength Training help to lose weight?

As discussed, strength training increases energy expenditure. The advantage of strength training on energy expenditure is, that it not only increases energy expenditure during exercise but also after exercise.


Yes, depending on the type of strength training, the metabolism of the muscles is elevated. The muscles need more energy to repair from the strength training, as well as to prepare for the next strength training.

This process leads to more energy consumption / energy expenditure at rest.

Check out the articles

  • Fat Loss Wars: Cardio Versus Weight Training! summing up how weight training increases the metabolism for the period after the strength training workout, some people also framed the term after-burn effect.
  • Why Strength Training Is The Workout You Need To Do If You’re Trying To Lose Weight more of a simplistic article geared towards every day training people, however a very good and solid outline, how lean muscle mass equals a higher metabolic rate, which helps you to expend more energy, hence burn more body fat.

Strength training changes the hormonal environment. Strength training leads to increase in hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormones and a decrease in hormones such as cortisol.

Hormones like testosterone and growth hormones lead to increase in muscle mass and reduce body fat, while cortisol is a stress hormone that leads to increases in body fat.

There is another advantage of strength training as a means to lose weight, which I haven’t mentioned yet.

As we discussed above in order to lose weight, you need to create an energy deficit, where energy expenditure exceeds energy intake.

During this energy deficit, the body uses the own sources of stored body fat, stored glycogen and muscle tissue.

Since strength training also has a signaling effect, sending a signal to the body, that the body needs to build muscles or at least maintain muscles, the body uses more of the other two sources to equalize the energy deficit.

Bottom-line, the body uses more stored body fat.

What type of Strength Training should I do to lose weight?

In order to lose weight, you need to do a strength training that

  • maximizes energy expenditure
  • stimulates the muscle metabolism
  • promotes testosterone and growth hormone secretion

Ok, so how do these types of strength training for weight loss look?

Let’s dive into it.

Strength Training workouts to maximize energy expenditure

A strength training session to maximize energy expenditure is characterized by a low work to rest ratio. For more information on work to rest ratios have a look at the article How long should a strength training session last?

The reason for a low work to rest ratio is a higher working heart rate throughout the entire strength training sessions. You get a similar effect as you get with your cardio training, a higher training heart rate.

Strength training sessions with a low work to rest ratio are strength endurance training workouts or hypertrophy workouts.

Strength Training workouts to stimulate the muscle metabolism

A strength training session to stimulate the muscle metabolism is characterized by lower training intensities (60 – 75% 1RM) and higher repetitions 8 – 12 repetitions.

Strength training sessions with higher repetitions and lower intensities are typically hypertrophy workouts or strength endurance training workouts, while hypertrophy training sessions have a much higher effect on the muscle metabolism.

Strength Training workouts to promote testosterone and growth hormone secretion

This question needs a more nuanced answer since the mechanisms for testosterone secretion and growth hormone secretion are slightly different.

Testosterone and growth hormone are hormones that are endogenous hormones, which is just a complicated way of saying it’s produced by the body.

These have multiple functions within your body, what is interesting for us, is that these hormones help to promote muscle growth and reduce body fat. Consequently, it makes a lot of sense to design strength training programs, that promote the endogenous testosterone and growth hormone production.

Testosterone secretion is highest following strength training workouts with higher intensities (80 – 85% 1RM), lower repetitions (4 – 6 repetitions) and longer rest between the sets (2 – 3 minutes of rest).

Growth hormone secretion is highest following strength training workouts lower intensities (60 – 75% 1RM), higher repetitions (8 – 12 repetitions) and shorter rest between the sets (around 1 minute of rest).

By now, you probably figured out, if you want to lose weight, strength endurance training workouts and hypertrophy workouts are best suited to achieve that goal.

Also check out the article Strength Training For Fat Loss: Building A Bigger Engine! from encapsulating the same idea.

How often should you do such a Strength Training for weight loss?

Now that you know, what you can do and should do, the next question is ‘How often should you do your strength training for weight loss?’

I have explained how often should you do strength training in the article How Often Should You Do Strength Training? in essence, this article looks more holistically at the different training frequencies (how many strength training sessions per week) depending on other responsibilities, such as family and job or education, training goal, where the athlete is in his annual season etc.

However, it also gives guidelines on how often to train depending on the training goal.

As I have outlined above, the most suitable form of training to support and accelerate weight loss is a form of hypertrophy and strength endurance training.

In the article I recommended the ideal training frequency for

  • hypertrophy: 3 – 5 strength training sessions a week
  • strength endurance: 2 – 3 strength training sessions a week

From this information and the information from above, the best recommendation to the question ‘How often should you do Strength Training to lose weight?’ is a minimum of 2 strength training sessions and a maximum of 5 strength training sessions.

How do I tone up? This is a common question asked by gym members and getting great shape, and toned up, can lead to improved self-confidence and help you look your best.

Of course, there is another important reason to workout and tone your body: it makes you feel great, inside and out. Good mental health is one of the benefits of maintaining an active lifestyle, and it is just as important as having good physical health.

You Might Also Like: 10 Ways to Become Happier (According to Science)

How To Tone Up

When it comes to toning up, the “trick” is actually quite straightforward. You want to do each of the following three things consistently:

  1. Resistance training to tone the muscles (read our toning guide)
  2. Regular cardiovascular exercise for overall health, but also fat loss
  3. Maintain a healthy diet to reduce body fat and reveal those lovely muscles! (read our guide to losing weight without crash dieting)

To kick-start your journey to a slimmer, toned you, here are some tips to note:

Increase fruit and vegetable intake

Eat more fruits and vegetables than you normally would. You may have already heard that eating veggies and fruits will make your heart healthy. These two provide you with all the essential vitamins and nutrients. Fruits and veggies aid in digestion without the guilt. Including these two in each meal will help you tone up faster.

Eat lean proteins, healthy fat, and whole grains

Eating the right foods can help with muscle growth and repair; which helps with the formation of nice, lean muscle. A balanced diet will also ensure your body the nutrients and vitamins it needs to keep your overall health in top shape. Depriving your body of these healthy food choices will prevent your muscles from shaping up, making toning harder to achieve.

Try the pushup and plank combo

Want to tone the upper body? This workout combo targets the triceps, shoulders, abdominals, and chest… Start in a modified pushup position, with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders and your knees down. Maintain a straight back, and keep your abs tight. Your elbows must be 90-degrees bent, and then push your body back up. Do 20 to 25 repetitions for three sets.

Related Article: 6 Steps To Amazing, Toned Arms

Do the side reach exercise

The side reach exercise works your obliques, which are the muscles down the side of your belly (the often-ticklish part!). To do it, lay on your right side with your legs stacked. Your right arm should be on the ground, while the left stays on top of the left leg. Maintaining a tight core, reach down using your left hand, like you are to touch the ankle. Feel the contraction along the side as you perform the movement several times.

Tone the legs with plie squats

The plie squats target the quads, glutes, and inner thighs. These are the common problem areas of women. To do it, stand with your feet wider than your shoulders. The toes must be turned out as you vertically hold light dumbbells in front of your thighs. Maintaining a tight core, bend your knees up to 90 degrees, and then push yourself up to the start. Do 15 repetitions for at least three sets as a starting point.

Incorporate reverse lunges into your routine

The reverse lunge targets the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and hold a pair of light dumbbells. Your arms must be at your sides, and the palms inward. Step one foot back, lunge, and then get back to the starting position. Perform 15 repetitions before switching legs. Try holding heavier dumbbells to add challenge.

See Also: How To Tone Your Butt

Drink only water

Staying well-hydrated will allow your body to flush away the toxins and keep you energised. It will also help hydrate and tighten your skin – which sis never a bad thing! Aim to drink at least two litres of water a day, and more when you sweat a lot. Avoid flavoured and alcoholic beverages as they will only cause your body to retain water.


Your body secretes a type of hormone that will cause weight gain and muscle loss when you are stressed out. Do your best to de-stress by getting plenty of sleep, slowing down, and spending more time to get some fresh air. Exercising is also highly recommended as it triggers your body to release endorphins, which counter the stress hormones.

Looking for an amazing fitness deal? Check out out crazy special on this month only!

Ask the Celebrity Trainer: The Best Way to Tone Up

Q: I don’t necessarily need to lose weight, but I do want to look fit and toned! What should I be doing?

A: First, I want to commend you for taking such a logical approach to changing your body. In my opinion, your body’s composition (muscle vs. fat) is much more important than the number on the scale. I always show my female clients a replica of what 1 pound of lean muscle looks like compared to 1 pound of fat. They look completely different, with the pound of fat taking up way more space than the pound of muscle.

Consider this real-life example: Say I have two female clients. “Client A” is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 130 pounds, and is 18-percent body fat (so she has 23.4 pounds of body fat), and “client B” is also 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 130 pounds, and has 32-percent body fat (so she has 41.6 pounds of body fat). These two women are going to look drastically different, even though they weigh the exact same amount in pounds and are the exact same height.

Hence if you want to get fit and toned, don’t be too concerned with the scale and focus on the composition of your body, especially if you’re after that lean and sexy look. Try the workout on the next page, which has been modified from my book, Ultimate You, and is designed to help you shed excess body fat, elevate your metabolism, and increase your overall muscle tone.

How it works: By incorporating a technique called metabolic resistance-training circuits, you maximize your time at the gym. With this style of training, you will perform one set of the first exercise, rest for the pre-determined amount of time, then move onto the next exercise and so on. Once you’ve completed one set of each exercise in the circuit, rest for 2 minutes and then repeat the entire circuit one to three more times, depending on your current fitness level. Complete the workout three times per week on non-consecutive days (for example, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays).

Choose a weight (load) that is challenging and that allows you to perform the minimum required repetitions with perfect form but no more than the maximum number of repetitions. If you can’t do the minimum number of reps, lower the resistance or adjust the exercise in order to make it slightly easier (i.e. table push ups instead of regular push ups). If you can achieve the maximum number of repetitions, try increasing the resistance or adjusting the exercise to make it slightly more difficult.

A few more program notes: During weeks 1-2, rest for 30 seconds between exercises. In weeks 3-4, use 15 seconds rest between exercises. Always take the full 2 minutes after completing the entire circuit. If you start out performing just two sets of the circuit in week 1, add a third round of the circuit in week 2 or 3. If you are able to perform all four rounds of the circuit during week 1, try reducing the rest periods between exercises each week, while also increasing the resistance.

Get the workout now! The Workout

A1. Dumbbell Split Squats

Sets: 2-4

Reps: 10-12 on each side

Load: TBD

Rest: 30 seconds

A2. Push Ups

Sets: 2-4

Reps: As many a possible using proper form

Load: Bodyweight

Rest: 30 seconds

A3. Dumbbell Straight-Leg Deadlift

Sets: 2-4

Reps: 10-12

Load: TBD

Rest: 30 seconds

A4. Side Bridge

Sets: 2-4

Reps: 30 seconds on each side

Load: Bodyweight

Rest: 30 Seconds

A5. Jumping Jacks

Sets: 2-4

Reps: 30 Seconds

Load: Bodyweight

Rest: 30 seconds

A6. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

Sets: 2-4

Reps: 10-12 on each side

Load: TBD

Rest: 30 seconds

A7. Seated Curl to Military Press

Sets: 2-4

Reps: 10-12

Load: TBD

Rest: 30 seconds

A8. Swiss Ball Roll Outs

Sets: 2-4

Reps: As many a possible using proper form

Load: Bodyweight

Rest: 30 seconds

Personal trainer and strength coach Joe Dowdell is one of the most highly sought‐after fitness experts in the world. His motivating teaching style and unique expertise have helped transform a clientele that includes stars of television and film, musicians, pro athletes, CEO’s, and top fashion models from around the world. To learn more, check out

To get expert fitness tips all the time, follow @joedowdellnyc on Twitter or becoming a fan of his Facebook page.

  • By Joe Dowdell, CSCS, CPT


Despite the late night infomercials, there is no “secret fix” for a slim, sculpted midsection.

Blasting belly fat and tightening your core takes a few simple steps, beginning in your kitchen, and ending with basic exercises that you can do anywhere, without the need for special equipment or a gym membership. Just follow these eating guidelines and exercise routines and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your stomach becomes slimmer, sculpted and toned.

Food rules for a flatter stomach:

1. Eat a breakfast high in protein.

Start your day with a breakfast high in protein to get your metabolism moving and to feel satiated and energized until lunch.

Blend yourself a smoothie with greens, almond butter and some fruit, or make an egg white scramble with veggies.

2. Don’t deprive yourself, but make healthy substitutions.

Make a few substitutions to reduce fat and calories without losing flavor. Choose Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, honey or maple syrup in place of white sugar, and finish your meal with berries rather than cake or ice cream.

3. Use fresh herbs.

Fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, basil and mint will add flavor to a dish without many calories, which will curb the desire to add sodium through salt (which contributes to bloating), and will cut down on calories since you’ll use less oils and butter.

4. Eat plenty of complex carbs.

Rather than eating refined simple carbs like pasta, cereal, bread and white rice, choose complex carbohydrates like oatmeal, whole grain pasta or bread.

5. Definitely eat fat.

Consuming healthy fats actually helps you blast belly fat. Make your own salad dressing by using extra-virgin olive oil and your favorite vinegar or citrus juice. Add sliced avocado to your sandwich and skip the cheese. Although these are all small changes, by consistently choosing healthier alternatives every day, you can accomplish your goals without feeling deprived or dissatisfied.

Exercises to get a slim, sculpted and toned stomach:

Thanks to Mr. Joseph Pilates, Ms. Tracy Anderson and the thousands of talented and creative exercise gurus in between, there are hundreds of variations of abdominal exercises, but when it comes to whittling down your waistline, the integrity of your movements is more important than any fancy choreography.

To achieve a strong, toned and sleek stomach, you need to connect the dots between your mind and body. We advocate keeping the exercises very simple and focusing on connecting your breath to the movement. The below two exercises combined with a quick daily interval program, three to four times per week is enough to deliver visible results.


Plank is the holy grail of core exercises because it builds both strength and stability while shrinking your midsection.


12 steps to tone up after weight loss

June 19 2015

We all know that achieving the perfect body won’t happen overnight, but what happens to your skin when you lose body weight and how do you achieve that coveted toned physique?

Your body has amazing capabilities that can adapt to change, but sometimes it takes a while for it to catch up. If you have lost a large amount of weight in a short period of time, you may still have some stubborn loose skin hanging around. While this is natural, it can seriously affect how you perceive your own progress and you may still feel unhappy with your appearance despite significant weight loss.

Your skin is a living organ, which consists of millions of cells. The cells on the outside of the skin’s surface are lost and replaced every day, but as the cells on the inside are more permanent they take longer to restore themselves. When you lose or gain weight, you effectively stretch or shrink your skin. By reducing the fat that keeps skin stretched out, you will also weaken the elasticity of the skin temporarily, so that post weight-loss skin may appear loose and flabby.

Here are 12 tips to tone up your body and drop that excess skin.

Identify: Skin or fat?

First of all you need to identify whether the excess skin is actually that, or whether it could be a thin layer of stubborn fat.

If you can pinch more than a few millimetres of skin then you probably still have some fat cells that need to be lost before the skin will appear firmer. Our bodies hold on to ‘stubborn’ types of fat – in men it’s usually areas such as the lower abs and lower back, whereas in women it can be stored on the thighs, backside, abs and hips – which, as the name suggests, is more difficult to lose.

In order to burn fat, your body produces a chemical known as ‘catecholamine’. These travel through your blood and attach to receptors on fat cells, catalysing the release of the energy stored within the cells so it can be burned off.

What you think is excess skin may actually be stubborn fat cells stored within the skin, in which case you will need to keep training to reduce it before the skin can look firm. The best way to do this is through HIIT training, which maximises fat burning during and after the workout, and also through strength training.

Build muscle

Building muscle is crucial to eliminating excess skin. Many cases of rapid weight loss are the result of high levels of cardio and a calorie-deficient diet. Due to this the majority of muscle has been lost along with the fat, which can lead to a lack of definition and a ‘saggy’ skinned look.

Performing compound resistance movements in circuits is a great way to burn fat and build muscle simultaneously, which will create an overall toned physique. Try moves such as deadlifts, squats and clean-and-press to maximise muscle groups. Don’t be afraid of using heavy weights during these movements, opt for a lower rep count if you are struggling to complete a set but continue for 3-5 sets with little rest. You could also utilise classes such as Body Pump, circuits or GT30, which combine these resistance training sessions with cardio moves.


Exfoliating your skin on a regular basis encourages blood circulation and removes dead skin cells from the surface, which promotes fresh skin production. Use a dry skin brush before you shower, work in circular motions starting from your feet to encourage the blood to travel up to your heart. Alternatively you could use an exfoliating body scrub while you are showering, try a product containing caffeine as this will stimulate the blood flow. Exfoliating will also help to reduce cellulite for the same reason.


While hydrating your skin from the inside by drinking plenty of water is vital, you must also hydrate the surface of the skin in order to keep it healthy. Use an intensive moisturiser, one that is enriched with skin-plumping collagen, or a product that contains natural oils like coconut, almond, or olive oil to lock in moisture and tighten the skin. These oils can also help to reduce the appearance of stretch marks – parallel lines varying in grey, pink or purple colour and size which form when the skin is stretched or shrunk very quickly – aim to massage them with oil on a daily basis for best results.


Much like exfoliation, regular massage helps to increase the circulation of blood to the skin’s surface which promotes the growth of new skin cells for a firmer appearance. It can also help to reduce muscle tension and encourage a stress-free state of mind.

Careful attention must be paid to the loose skin while massaging so that it doesn’t hurt the person being massaged. Avoid using oil when massaging someone with loose skin so that your hands don’t slip and accidentally pull on the skin. Opt for a thicker cream enriched with Shea butter instead. If you find that it is still too slippery, pat the skin down with a towel and massage gently with dry hands.

The masseuse should make sure that they are also reaching the muscles underneath the skin, and not just the skin itself, by applying enough compression using their hands, forearms or fingers to reach the muscles.

Boost skin elasticity

You naturally lose skin elasticity with age, however it can also affect younger people if they have lost a large amount of weight. While you cannot completely counteract this process, there are certain foods, drinks and supplements you can take to improve the elasticity of the skin.

Fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants can help to protect the skin from damage. Eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables including blueberries, green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, and yellow/orange fruit and veg. Nuts, beans and legumes are plant-sourced proteins that the body can use to replace dead skin cells. Some nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, also contain vitamin B which may reduce the sagging and wrinkling of skin.

Eating a portion of oily fish, such as mackerel and salmon, a couple of times a week will provide your skin with essential omega 3 fatty acids, which keep your skin soft and pliable. According to a study conducted by Stanford University, people that took a gelatine supplement every day were also able to improve their skin’s elasticity, however this option is not suitable for vegetarians.

Revisit your fitness & diet plan and slow things down

Before you begin a diet/fitness plan, you need to keep your long-term health in mind. Losing huge amounts of weight in a very short period of time is incredibly bad for your body. It puts a great amount of stress on many of your organs, including your skin. Remember that losing weight healthily should be a gradual process to allow your body to have enough time to adapt and recover. So the quicker you lose weight, the looser your skin may become.

Keep yourself hydrated

The majority of your skin cells are made up of water, so when you’re dehydrated your skin looks significantly thinner and less plump. Aim to drink at least two litres of water a day to ensure that you are properly hydrated and you will soon notice a difference in your skin.

Continue exercising – don’t let things slide

Just because you’ve reached your goal it doesn’t mean you should stop exercising. You’ll need to continue exercising to stay in the shape that you worked so hard to achieve. Additionally, exercise will also help to tighten and tone your skin as you stimulate blood flow around your body and build muscle.

Stay away from sunbeds

While it’s tempting to hop on a sunbed to hide any imperfections under a glowing tan, the ultraviolet (UV) light that you are exposed to on a sunbed can significantly damage your skin. Over time it can cause your skin to look old, wrinkled and leathery, but there is an even more serious danger than accelerated ageing. Sunbeds can damage the DNA of your skin, which may lead to skin cancer including malignant melanoma, the most fatal type of the disease. Opt for fake tan if you want to achieve a safe golden look, there are now a number of spray tans that can last over one week that won’t damage your skin at all.

Consult your doctor

Surgery should only be undertaken as a last resort when you have exhausted all other options. Wait at least six months to one year before undergoing surgery, your skin can adapt but it does take time, so don’t rush into any surgery until you can be sure that your skin won’t shrink and return to the same elasticity as it previously had.

The process of surgery consists of cutting away all loose skin and tightening and smoothing the remaining skin underneath. While this surgery can be very effective, it can leave scars, be expensive and take a long time to recover from. Make sure you consult your doctor before making any big decisions like this.

Love your body

Beauty is not skin deep, the important thing is that you feel happy in yourself. Loose skin is a natural process, even if none of the techniques above work for you, you should still be proud of the body that you have worked so hard to achieve. Think of your loose skin or stretch marks as reminders of just how far you have come, be proud of your body!

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Intelligent Fitness Blog

I Don’t Need to Lose Weight – I Just Need to “Tone Up”

It’s not unusual for people who want to “tone up” to say “I don’t need to lose weight; I just need to “tone up”.

Having measured more than two thousand individual body fat percentages on behalf of the Scottish Government over the last 17 years (including the amazing Susan on the left) I have very rarely come across anyone who didn’t need to lose many pounds of fat (rather than merely gain muscle or “tone” the muscle) to “tone up” to the degree they would be happy with.

Let’s have a look at the science behind “toning”. No amount of weight training have as much of an effect on revealing the muscle as does losing fat via consistent calorie deficit. So it is almost always a weight (fat) loss issue. Even elite fitness models and physique competitors whose income depends on appearing in peak shape usually maintain an off season weight up to 1 stone (6kg) heavier than when in photo shoot condition.

Here’s a typical scenario which happened on a Rapid Fat Loss Challenge at the Government.

The member, let’s call her Shirley, says to me “I’m not overweight – I just need to tone up a bit”.

I measure her BMI. Sure enough, at five feet six inches and 10 stone 9 lbs, it’s a healthy (statistically speaking) BMI of 24.1. She is not overweight.

But when we measure her body fat percentage, we find that her body fat is a (fairly typical) 40% and her Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR) is 0.9. So she has 27kg or 59 lbs of fat on her body, and much of this fat is undesirably in the mid – section – even though she is not overweight, she is over fat.

25-30% is a useful goal for women and 15-20% is useful goal for men.

Years of experience have showed me that to get in the kind of shape that most (but not all) women feel happier with, they usually have reach a body fat of 30% or less (men have to get 20% or less). Accordingly, Shirley will have to lose 7kg/15 lbs of fat (or over a stone) to reduce her fat stores to 20kg and hit the 30% fat mark

But Muscle Weighs Heavier Than Fat…

Then often people say “Ah, but what about muscle? What about that? Surely muscle weighs heavier than fat!”

It does. However, since even elite male (natural) bodybuilders struggle to gain even 5 or 6 pounds of muscle per year, then we could say that in women a proper strength/resistance programme month is going to lead to around 1-2lbs of muscle gain, tops, per year.

So in 1 month we can consider the muscle gain to be negligible – half to one pound of lean tissue which will only alter body composition (reducing fat % is what reveals the muscle) by 0.7%.

8lbs of fat loss on the other hand, will alter body composition by 4 % – 6 times as much!

The truth is that “Toning” is really something you do (more often than not) by cutting your fat stores, rather than something you do only to your muscles. Combining Progressive Resistance Training like the TBT Protocol with enjoyable cardio intervals and sensible, enjoyable energy restriction is the best way to a maximally toned appearance.

Thankfully Shirley tackled the her calories intake in a sensible way with gusto and has since dropped her body fat from 40% to 28%; reduced her waist from 29 to 25 inches and her weight by a stone to 61kg (9 stone 4lbs) and a BMI of 21.8.

The take home message is a lot of “toning” work is really done at sitting down to eat. Eat less, eating more nutritious food is at least as important as the exercise component.

Abs really are made in the kitchen as they say.


Your holiday departure date is looming and you still haven’t managed to tone up? There is still time! Get going quick on these four emergency measures and within a fortnight you will see a difference…

1. Lunges

To tone the muscles in your bottom (the glutes) and tops of the legs (quadriceps), lunges are a great exercise. There are a number of alternative ways to lunge, but do make sure the lower part of your forward leg remains vertical as you lower yourself and do not let your front knee protrude forward over your toes.

The most obvious lunge, the forward lunge, is where you bring one leg forward, as if to take a step but with a much longer stride, and then with your back straight squat down by bending both knees. To return to standing push up on the heel of the front foot. Repeat this exercise on alternate legs.

Work up to 3 sets of 12 or 15 repetitions and try to do this three times each week.

2. Squats

Squats target the same muscles as lunges but can be better for toning the bottom specifically. When you squat do not over-stretch as this will actually engage different muscles – you want to bend from the knees into an imaginary seated position where your bottom is aligned just above your knees forming almost a right angle. To intensify the workout try holding dumbbell weights with your arms bent so that the weights are about chin height.

Attempt 3 sets of 12 or 15 repetitions every other day to notice an improvement. Or, rather than count how many you do, you can also try doing them in the advert breaks of your favourite soap on TV – if you aim to keep on until the break ends you may just manage 40 or more.

3. Running

It’s free, it’s convenient, it works your leg muscles, bottom and arms and gets your heart moving more than stretches. Running is also a great opportunity to breathe in some fresh air, develop a base tan (remember to slap on the suncream) and grab some undisturbed me-time.

Or rope in a pal and use it as a catch-up time – this also helps prevent boredom and may well encourage you to run further than you would otherwise.

Make sure you’re wearing the right running shoes to prevent injury. Walking as many places as possible in toning sandals or shoes can also help to tone the calf muscles – check out the Reebok Easytone range for some great girly sandals and shoes.

4. Stomach crunches

Want a flat muscly tum? Sorry, but there’s really only one option: stomach crunches. They do hurt, they are a pain, but they are the most effective and quickest way of toning that tum. Get down to them either first thing in the morning or just before bed, but whenever you do them, make sure it’s daily for visible results. Always allow at least 2 hours between eating and exercising or you may experience cramps.

For more flat stomach inspiration, check out our six fast exercises for a flat stomach




This 21 Day Challenge Will Remind You Why You Work Out

FatCamera/Getty Images

Don’t be sucked into a workout that promises (only) a “toned body” by the end of it. There’s a more important (and attainable) reason to exercise: It makes you feel great. “Good mental health is just as important as good physical health, and exercise is crucial to getting both,” says trainer Jeanette Jenkins, author of The Hollywood Trainer Weight-Loss Plan: 21 Days to Make Healthy Living a Lifetime Habit. The 21-day plan she created below celebrates all the good stuff that comes with exercise: more energy, better health, and the motivation to keep coming back for more. So while this routine might get you closer to physical goals, it can also bring about invisible changes. (Related: The Anti-Running Treadmill Workout for Total-Body Toning)

This 21-day plan is designed for all fitness levels, so just choose the exercise and cardio variations that are right for you. Trying to make exercise a lifelong habit? Use these three weeks as a jumping-off point. If you’re already in your own workout groove, there are plenty of challenges here to boost your results. (Related: This 30-Minute Total-Body Workout Tones from Head to Toe)

How it works: Jenkins’ program consists of four primary workouts: three strength circuits and a cardio routine. Each circuit focuses on a different set of muscle groups; do each circuit on the days indicated four times through or six times if you’re feeling advanced. The cardio days are designed to blast calories and improve your aerobic fitness. For the best results, follow the order for each day and week below.

You’ll need: A set of light (3- to 5-pound) and medium (8- to 10-pound) dumbbells

Your 21-Day “Toned Body” Workout Plan

Day 1: Cardio + Stretch

Day 2: Circuits A and C

Day 3: Cardio + Stretch

Day 4: Circuits B and C

Day 5: Circuit A + Stretch

Day 6: Circuits B and C

Day 7: Rest

Repeat this same schedule for weeks two and three.

Circuit A: Chest, Triceps, and Butt

Image zoom Dorit Thies

1. Push-Up/Plank Combo

Targets shoulders, triceps, chest, abs

A. Begin in a modified push-up position, hands on ground slightly wider than shoulders and knees down. Keep a straight line from the top of head through feet, abs tight.

B. Bend elbows 90 degrees, then push back up to start.

Repeat for 20 to 25 reps.

C. After final rep, lift knees off ground into high plank position. Keeping abs tight and back straight, hold for 30 seconds.

Scale Up: Do full push-ups; hold plank 60 seconds.

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2. Chest Fly

Targets shoulders, chest

A. Lie face up on the ground with knees bent, holding heavier dumbbells with arms extended, palms facing each other.

B. Slowly open arms out to sides, keeping elbows slightly bent; stop when weights are about an inch above the ground.

C. Push weights back to return to starting position.

Do 15 reps.

D. Immediately pick up the lighter set of weights and do 10 more reps.

Scale Up: Do 25 reps with the 8- to 10-pound weights.

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3. Reverse Lunge

Targets glutes, hamstrings, quads

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding lighter set of dumbbells with arms at sides, palms in.

B. Lunge right foot backward, lowering right knee toward ground; bend left knee 90 degrees, keeping it aligned over ankle.

C. Return to start, driving body weight through your left heel; bring right knee to hip level.

Do 15 reps. Switch sides; Repeat.

Scale Up: Hold heavier dumbbells and/or do 25 reps per side.

Image zoom Dorit Thies

4. Squat/Chair Pose

Targets glutes, hamstrings, quads

A. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding lighter dumbbells on shoulders.

B. Squat down, pushing butt backward. Keep body weight over heels.

C. Push through heels to return to start, squeezing glutes.

Do 20 to 25 reps.

D. After last rep, drop weights and bring feet together. Resume squat position, keeping knees behind toes and extending arms in front at chest level; hold for 30 seconds.

Scale Up: Use heavier dumbbells and hold chair pose for 60 seconds.

Circuit B: Back, Biceps, and Thighs

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1. Plié Squat

Targets glutes, quads, inner thighs

A. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with toes turned out, holding lighter dumbbells vertically in front of thighs.

B. Keeping abs tight and torso tall, bend knees 90 degrees. Keep knees aligned between second and third toes and weight in heels.

C. Press back to start, squeezing glutes.

Do 15 reps.

Scale Up: Use heavier weights and/or do 25 reps.

Image zoom Dorit Thies

2. Biceps Curl

Targets biceps

A. Stand tall with feet together, knees slightly bent. Hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand with palms facing up.

B. Slowly curl the weights toward shoulders, contracting biceps.

C. Slowly lower the weights to start and repeat.

Do 15 reps.

D. Immediately pick up the lighter set of weights and repeat. Do 10 more reps.

Scale Up: Do 25 reps with the heavier weights.

Image zoom Dorit Thies

3. Inner/Outer Leg Lift

Targets glutes, outer and inner thighs

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms extended at shoulder height, palms down.

B. Lift left leg to side, squeezing outer thigh and glutes then lower it to return to start. Continue: Lift and lower.

Do 15 reps.

C. Without touching floor, bring left leg in front of body, rotating inner thigh to face forward. Press left heel forward. Continue: Lift and lower.

Do 15 more reps. Switch sides; repeats sequence on opposite leg.

Scale Up: Do 50 total reps per leg.

Image zoom Dorit Thies

4. Back Fly

Targets upper back, shoulders

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, right leg about 3 feet behind left. Hold heavier dumbbells with palms facing each other. Bend forward from waist, extending arms toward ground diagonally just in front of left knee.

B. Slowly open arms straight out to sides to shoulder level, contracting upper back muscles. Slowly lower weights and repeat.

Do 15 reps.

C. Immediately pick up the lighter set of weights and do 10 more reps.

Scale Up: Do 25 reps with the heavier weights.

Circuit C: Core

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1. Roll-Up

Targets deep (transverse) and “six-pack” (rectus) abdominals

A. Lie face up with knees bent, arms extended next to ears, palms facing up.

B. Reach arms straight while contracting abs and lift head, neck, and shoulders off the ground. Keep spine rounded, moving as smoothly as possible.

C. After rolling up all the way, pull abs in tight and roll back down one vertebra at a time.

Do 8 reps.

Scale Up: Keep legs straight.

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2. Side Reach

Targets obliques, deep (transverse) abdominals

A. Lie on right side with legs stacked, right arm on ground and left arm on top of left leg.

B. Keeping abs pulled in, reach left hand down as if trying to touch ankle, feeling the contraction along side.

C. Slowly lower back down, using obliques and abs to provide resistance.

Do 8 reps; switch sides and repeat.

Scale Up: Lift your legs slightly as you reach toward ankles.

Image zoom Dorit Thies

3. Boat Pose

Targets deep (transverse) and “six-pack” (rectus) abdominals

A. Sit with knees bent, feet hip-width apart. Place hands under thighs, inhaling deeply.

B. Exhale, lifting feet off the ground (keep knees bent) and pulling abs in tight.

C. Lean back slightly, balancing on tailbone, and open arms wide out to sides. Hold for 8 breaths, return to start, and repeat.

Do 3 reps.

Scale Up: Straighten legs to creat a 45 degrees to the ground.

Calorie-Blasting Cardio Workout

These treadmill workouts are designed to blast 300 to 500+ calories in 40 to 50 minutes, so they’ll have you feeling spent in the best way. Plus, they help burn fat, so all that strength training you’re doing can manifest the toned body results you’re after.

Choose from one of three levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and pick either a high-impact run or a low-impact speed walk on an incline. Don’t have access to a treadmill? Do the same program outside on flat or hilly terrain (depending on which impact-level you choose). Follow your cardio workout with 5 to 10 minutes of stretching for your shoulders, chest, hips, glutes, and legs. (Related: The Ultimate Treadmill Interval Workout for Every Fitness Level)

Level 1

Follow these minute-by-minute running interval workouts for a treadmill session that won’t bore you to death.

Level 2

Level 3

Adapted from The Hollywood Trainer Weight-Loss Plan by Jeanette Jenkins with permission of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a member of the Penguin Group USA. Copyright 2007 by Jeanette Jenkins.

One of the most common phrases ever uttered in vicinity of the gym is “I don’t want to bulk up – I just want to get toned”.

It’s not necessarily that the statement itself is wrong – after all, any steps you take to change your body composition for the better should be heavily encouraged – it’s just that it tends to lack a little insight towards what it takes to achieve a “toned” physique.

According to Dylan Rivier, personal trainer and founder of the body transformation program Built By Dylan, everybody knows what you mean when you say you want to get more toned – but few know the best way to go about it.

“In my experience, when someone tells me they want to be more ‘toned’, they’re usually referring to a more defined physique,” Rivier tells Coach.

“Generally speaking it’s girls and guys who want more definition without ‘bulking’, like bulking up is the easiest thing to do — insert eye roll here.”

Anatomy 101

Unsurprisingly, when it comes to the most optimum way to build muscle in the gym, things can get really complicated – but you certainly don’t need a medicine degree to know how.

If putting on 10kg of pure muscle was as easy as lifting a few weights and slamming a protein shake or two, we’d very quickly become a society overrun with hulking humans (probably a healthier society too – but I digress).

When people refer to a “toned” physique, they generally mean a person has two physiological characteristics: a low amount of body fat, and a relatively high degree of muscle mass.

The more muscle you have, the more “toned” you’ll appear – conversely, this means the leaner you are, the more your hard-earned muscles will “pop” out of your training singlet.

RELATED: Myth: Why your muscle won’t turn into fat if you don’t use it

The pink dumbbell myth

For years, the general consensus was that if you wanted to “bulk up” you’d lift heavy weights for fewer repetitions, and if you wanted to “tone” you’d lift light weights for many repetitions.

This was spurred on heavily by trainers like Tracy Anderson – who boasts a star-studded client list with names like Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Richie – who claimed that “no woman should lift more than 3 pounds (1.5kg).”

According to Rivier, the idea that you have to keep the weights low and the reps high to “tone up” is largely a myth, and the most productive way to build a lean physique may actually be the direct opposite.

“I would be more inclined to prescribe a strength program — heavy weights, low reps — to anyone wanting to ‘tone’ up, regardless if they were male or female,” explains Rivier.

“Lean muscle burns more calories, so the more lean muscle you have the more fat you’re going to be burning — even at rest. In fact, you can continue burning calories for up to 48 hours after a tough strength workout.”

Of course, building and retaining muscle mass is just one part of the toning equation – in order to really lean out, it’s helpful to add in some aerobic conditioning (that is, lung-burning cardio) as well.

“I feel the most effective programs include elements of strength-based training as well as aerobic conditioning — I find HIIT or metcon circuits most effective for this,” explains Rivier.

FYI, “HIIT” is high-intensity interval training (short periods of very hard exercise followed by short rests, then repeated for the duration of the workout), and “metcon” is shorthand for metabolic conditioning (which is essentially similar to HIIT).

RELATED: Stop telling women they shouldn’t lift heavy

For best results, clean up your diet

We know that to get as “toned” as quickly as possible, you’ll have to follow an exercise program that encourages both muscle hypertrophy (that means muscle growth) and fat loss.

Even if you were armed with a theoretical “world’s best program”, you’d still have to clean up your diet for best results, and Rivier says that takes a lot of individualised fine-tuning.

“Diet is hugely important in everything fitness, but here is where it gets tricky,” says Rivier.

“I know you want to hear me say ‘you need to eat this and train this way’ — but the fact is that everyone is so different, so what might work a treat for one may have minimal effect on another.

“There are guidelines of course that are there as exactly that – guidelines, not rules – but it comes down to what works best for you.”

For Rivier, the best guideline people can apply to their own lives is to make sure that they are eating in a way that’s sustainable with their lives and gives them energy to hit their workouts with vigour.

“Find what works for you then be consistent with it,” says Rivier.

“Your diet and training should complement one another, so make sure you’re eating enough to have the energy to train and make sure you’re training hard enough to burn the calories required to look lean and toned.”

RELATED: There’s only one weight-loss secret worth knowing: consistency

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