Q : I’ve been lifting pretty much the same weights for years. How can I regain motivation?
UNGODLY MORNING ALARMS and terminal shower queues might seem a fair trade-off when you’re setting PBs on a weekly basis. But when you’re racking up the same old weights on autopilot, fitting in your reps can feel like performing a thankless task. Well, do not fear: it would seem that lifting was never the answer, anyway. Research from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland found athletes who hit a strength plateau were able to re-start their progress simply by focusing on the eccentric (lowering) part of the move and adding 40 percent to their usual lifting weight. “Humans have a greater ability to produce force when lowering a load compared to lifting, so it seems logical to train with greater eccentric loads,” explains study author Simon Walker.
Crucially, lone wolves might need to rethink their stance – to make this work for you, you’ll need a good spotter. Pile on the plates and have them assist with the lifts while you practice the slow, downward phase of moves such as the bench press and front squat. And should anyone cast the disparaging eye at your efforts, we’d retort with a variation on the popular bro-ism: “Do you even lower?”
Push your limits
REMIX YOUR GYM REGIMEN TO
BREAK ANY STRENGTH PLATEAU
JOIN THE BAND
Heavy metal provides a constant amount of resistance. So try bands: the difficulty varies as you move, giving your muscles a different stimulus.
Warming up with static stretches leads to losses in strength, according to Brazilian scientists. Swap out isometric holds for brief bodyweight drills.
KEEP THE BEET
Forgo whey in favor of juice. Filling up on nitrate-rich beetroot pre-training helped gym-goers in a UK study push out 20 percent more bench-press reps.
Q : I sweat profusely every time I exercise. Is this a sign of unfitness?
Quite the contrary. This kind of visible exhaustion is more likely a sign of good fitness, as it shows your body’s cooling response is working effectively. While it’s true that excessive sweating can be a result of having more body mass to cool down, very fit people react in the same way, as their bodies have adapted to deal efficiently with regular exertion. But if the effects of your workout are dampening spirits as well as your shirts, there is a way to stem the flow. Studies from the University of Ottawa found that people who drank ice-cold water during exercise perspired less, thanks to thermo-receptors in the abdomen that detect temperature changes and tell the brain to decrease sweat output. Pop a bottle in the freezer ahead of your next session and it’ll be easy to keep your professional cool back at the office.
Q : Now I hear salty isn’t bad for my heart. Can I go crazy with the seasoning?
ALLOW US TO throw a question back at you: do you know your blood pressure? According to major new research from Boston University, assumptions about salt’s harmful effects were based on studies of those who already have high BP – and still hold true. But for the heart-healthy population? No correlation has been established. It’s a tantalizing thought, but that’s not to say those with a safe reading of 120/80 get an all-you-can-eat pass at the deli. The research simply proves how little we know about the interplay between our diets and our bodies. For example, the study suggests upping potassium could have a bigger impact than limiting sodium. In short, if you’re living off microwave pizzas, an elevated salt intake is likely the least of your worries.
Iodine deficiency can lead to thyroid issues, stalling metabolism. If you don’t eat seafood, a pinch of iodized salt on your chicken breast will keep things ticking over.
Sodium lost through sweat during a tough weights session can cause cramping and inhibit muscle repair if not replaced. Add a few flakes to your shakes.
When training in the heat, a pre-workout hit of salt – with plenty of water, of course – can help you stay adequately hydrated.
Q : My hair’s definitely on its way out. At what point do I give up the fight?
A little thinning on top doesn’t mean it’s game over, particularly if the hair you have left is in good condition. “Guys can be melodramatic,” says veteran barber Rory Hazell. “Listen to others’ advice when making the decision to shave your head – much of the time it’s just your own insecurity.” However, if your once soft locks are becoming stiff and you see small baby hairs appearing, it may be time to consider going the full Statham. Don’t just go at it with the Clippers, though. This isn’t a DIY job and one cut does not fit all. “If someone has a wider head I might use a longer grade – a 0.5 instead of going straight to the bone,” says Hazell. Equally, if your scalp is uneven, a smart trim can disguise bumps. Don’t neglect aftercare either. “The scalp is a sensitive part of the skin,” says Hazell, who recommends a post-shave balm that stops pores from clogging. Consider that ‘fight’ won.