Thursday, October 24, 2013

Deadly Deadlifts and going Green!

I think its time to show you another one of my favourite exercises: Deadlifts. This is, like Squats and Bench Press, a compound movement - and a form of Olympic Lifting. Deadlifts work similar muscles as a Squat, but focus more on your hamstrings, glutes and lower back. At the same time you are also working out your core, lower back and various additional leg muscles. So its a great move to get in shape and get strong.

Overall, I am a great fan of deadlifts, however, a warning is necessary. Deadlifts, if performed poorly, live up to their name: they are deadly. What do I mean by that? The likeliness that you will injure yourself doing Deadlifts is incredibly high. I experienced it myself. My boyfriend was the first one to introduce me to this compound movement, and he showed me numerous times how to perform it properly. However, I had difficulties getting my form right, and it took me days of practicing until I finally found out what I was doing wrong. A week later, he was wondering off, doing his own workout, and I proceeded to do Deadlifts by myself. I don't know what I did - but after I finished all my sets I felt a piercing pain in my lower back, which then traveled along to my legs, and persisted at the joints where my legs are connected to my torso. I could not walk properly! The pain was almost unbearable, and in my panic I actually thought I injured my spine and won't be able to walk ever again - total freak out! Obviously I exaggerated and it wasn't that bad, however, it took a couple of days until the pain went away and I was reaching my full potential again. This experience was really scary, and since then I am incredibly careful when doing Deadlifts.

So basically, I don't want you to do Deadlifts if there is noone around who can show you exactly how to do them. If you MUST try them by yourself, please please please start with very low weight, until you got your form right, and then slowly move up. You don't want to cripple yourself. Furthermore, I will show you an alternative exercise which has almost the same effects, and is a lot safer (and also good fun).

Performing a Proper Deadlift

1. Stand behind the bar. Legs a little more than shoulder-width apart. Squat down. Your legs should form a 90° angle (or less). Transfer your weight onto your heels. Your knees should be alingned with your toes. Grab the bar with both hands. Push your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. ALWAYS keep your back straight. You can chose the grip you like the most. Many people say that a mixed grip (one hand forward, the other one backward) provides you with the maximum strength in your hands and forearms, but to me it feels kinda weird. I just have to practice it a bit more.


2. Slowly push your heels into the ground, squeeze your glutes together, and push through your legs. Lift the weight off the ground. This exercise is mainly targeting the legs, so you should work your arms and back as little as possible. You want to lift the weight by straightening your legs. Move the bar along the outline of your body. ALWAYS keep your back straight. Otherwise, I promise you, you will hurt yourself!

Now, the first picture is the way I DO NOT want you to perform a Deadlift. It is a recipe for disaster and injury, so please DO NOT do this. Even though the Deadlift is somewhat of a two part movement (straightening your legs, straightening your hips), you want to perform those movements almost at the same time, it should be a flowing movement. This is what I had trouble with when I started doing Deadlifts. I would first straighten up my legs, and then lift the weight with my upper body. That puts enormous pressure on your lower back, and sets you up for injury. So if you look like me in the picture below, you are doing it WRONG!

If you would start lifting up the weight now, you will not use your legs. Instead, keep your bottom below your shoulders, and lift the weight through pressing your legs into the ground and straightening up WHILST keeping your back and torso the way it originally was.

Whilst pushing through your legs, squeeze your glutes and move the bar closely along your body. 

3. The final stage involves a push through your hips. Straighten up your body by pushing your hips forward and drive them through the bar. You have successfully completed a Deadlift!

In this position, your body should be straight, your hips pushed slightly forward, and your shoulders pushed back by squeezing your shoulder blades together. You can now return to the starting position and perform more reps. Depending on the weight, I usually do 3 sets, 8-12 reps. 

As I mentioned before, poorly performed Deadlifts can be DANGEROUS. If you just started to train with weights and are not 100% comfortable with Olympic lifting, and if you have no experienced gym buddy who can help you with your form, you might want to stay away from Deadlifts. Instead, you could perform Kettle Bell Swings. This exercise works the same muscles, but puts less pressure on your spine and lower back. 

Performing Kettle Bell Swings

I have seen many people doing Kettle Bell Swings. And Oh Dear Lord, most of them have no idea what they are doing. This exercise, like Deadlifts, is targeted at your legs and glutes, not your arms or back muscles. The starting position is similar to a deadlift. Squat down, form a 90° angle, keep your back straight and push your shoulders back. Shift your weight onto your heels.

Driving through your hips, straighten your legs and in a swinging motion, lift up the Kettle Bell. Again, the driving force are your legs and glutes (squeeze that butt of yours), and not your arms! Remember to keep your back straight (by now you must be so annoyed by me saying this over and over again, but at least you won't forget it).

You can now choose between two variations. Either you bring your Kettle Bell up in front our your body (90° angle) or your push it further until it reaches the point just before it is straight above your head. Either way, you want to end up with a straight body, and really drive your hips forward, squeezing your glutes together in the end.

(Yes, the light coming through the window is sunshine. Sunshine in Edinburgh! What a rare occurrence.)

Finally, you let the Kettle Bell drop in a controlled motion, and it will swing back between your knees. And here is where most people get it wrong. Do not lean forward and let your chest drop to the same level as your knees. Remember, you want to sit upright, with your back straight, and your shoulders pushed back. This is what you should look like in the final (and first) stage of your Kettle Bell Swing:

Right, you now have some material to perform a proper Deadlift, even though I would not recommend to do it as a beginner and without professional help. Instead, have fun with those Kettle Bell Swings.

There is another story I wanted to share.  It is not THAT exciting, so I don't think it deserves its own post, but I thought it might be somewhat helpful. I spend a lot of time on Pinterest the last couple of days, because it entertains me to look at food and fit people (I get a weird kick out of it). I found some good looking green smoothies on there, and thought I should try it out. So I went to the Health Food store this morning and got all the missing ingredients. I mixed two recipes, and here is what I ended up with: 

Suspicious Green Smoothie:

- 1 cup Spinach
- 1 cup Kale
- 1/2 cup Cucumber
- 1 Tbsp Chia Seeds
- 1/2 Tbsp Raw Cocoa Powder
- 1 tsp Stevia
- 1 cup Coconut water

I blended it all together, and lets say - the result was interesting. This is what it looked like:

You could say it looks somewhat delicious. It definitely looks healthy. And that is what it tastes and feels like, too. The first half was pretty good - the cucumber makes the smoothie nice and fresh, and the chia seeds give it some texture. However, half way through I just started feeling like cow must feel like day in and day out. It was like chewing on a mouthful of grass, and I did not find it overly enjoyable. It gave me a weird feeling of satisfaction though. Obviously I finished my drink, its the best way to get all your greens, but I think some experimentation is needed. Tomorrow I will try out different ingredients and combinations, until I end up with a green smoothie that actually doesn't make you feel like you face-planted in the meadows. If you have any recipes that work, please save me from my misery and comment below - I would really appreciate it.

If you are looking for more advice on getting git, customized exercise plans (that are also safe and not even slightly deadly) and personalized nutrition plans (with yummy smoothies), visit us at and Register for free at 

That's it from me. Advice of the day:  Stay green, don't die. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Do Numbers matter?

Numbers are making us crazy. Nowadays, numbers make the world go round. How much did GDP grow this year? Did my real income increase? Should I save more? Is it clever to invest at a low interest rate? Numbers are in fashion, and we keep trying to express everything around us through mathematical models.

There is a lot of math involved in weight loss. How many calories do you eat? How many calories are you burning? What about carbs? How much do you weight? What is your body fat percentage? What about your BMI? The list goes on and on and on...

Today I want to filter out which numbers matter, and which measures you should forget about. I will look at the three most common measures of weight loss and fitness. I will talk about calories, weight, and body fat percentage. At some point I will look at low carb diets separately, and I believe that it is almost common knowledge that BMI is a very general and imprecise measure, so I won't really bother with it (unless you would like me to). Let's get started!

Calorie Balance

This is the most basic formula for weight loss: eat less calories than you are burning. My dad (a neurologist and psychiatrist--I blame him for everything that's wrong with me) used to tell me that only people with an eating disorder count calories, but I believe that's wrong. Keeping an eye on your energy intake and exertion can really help you to jump start weight loss. And don't just guess. At first, it is tedious to look up the nutritional information for all the food you are eating, but soon you will get the hang of it, and THEN you can start guessing. Try to make your meals no more than 600 calories (on average, the body can't take in more than that), and I found that 400-500 calories per meal is perfect. You don't feel too heavy, and you aren't starving. The easiest way to find out your energy/calorie needs is online, and you can Register for free at to help you assess your nutritional needs and come up with customized nutrition and exercise plans. Let's see: I can do the basics with you. First, it is interesting to know what your Basal Metabolic Rate is. This is the amount of calories you burn just to survive--breathing, digesting, basic movements, brain functions (if you're lucky...). 

Based on my information, the calculator tells me that in a somewhat sedentary state, I would burn 1,415 calories a day. Now let's see what happens when I put in my daily exercise level:

Now that you know what you can eat, start tracking your daily intake, and make sure that you don't eat more than you are burning. Generally, if you want to lose weight, you should cut your calories by around 500. Do NOT cut out more calories than that, as you would not reach your metabolic needs, and your body functions would suffer. I know this seems pretty basic, but this is what really helped me in the beginning, and it is what most people struggle with the most. Just changing my eating habits and really being conscious of what I am eating has already made a huge difference even without working out every day. Once again, just to remind you: Calories In < Calories Out


For us women, there are two taboos: nobody who wants to get out alive should start talking about 1) age and 2) weight. We don't like revealing how old we are, and how much we weigh (even I am starting to do that--and I am only best years are gone!). Personally, I don't believe in weight. If you are overweight to the point that you are at risk of serious health issues, you definitely need to take into account how much you weigh, and it is a good tool to track your progress. But that is only for the beginning. The closer you get to your ideal body shape, the less important it is to weigh yourself. I went to the gym with a friend of mine today, and she was really upset about the number she saw on the scale. I know it is hard to ignore it, but I usually just do not weigh myself. If, however, you are OCD and you want to keep exact records of all possible measurements, keep this in mind: weight fluctuates. There are many factors that influence your weight: how much water have you drank throughout your day, when was the last time you ate, did you exercise before, are you on your period, what time of the day is it, etc. So if you want to get a good idea about the changes in your weight, make sure you control for all these possible factors. I recommend, however, that you should rather go by how you feel and look. I believe that the importance of weight decreases with your progress.

Body Fat Percentage

Now this is an interesting one. When I started working with Michael here at, he gave me access to an account, and I took all the necessary measurements to calculate my BodyFat%. The program told me I am a proud 15%, which I am more than happy with. However, when I started Uni back in Edinburgh, I went to the gym and took two different tests, both of them telling me that I have a BodyFat% of 25. How could I have put on 10% Body Fat in 2 months? At first I was shocked and upset, because I thought all my hard work and effort somehow didn't pay off. I did some research online, and the results were even more confusing. Let's look at some of the evidence.

This time, if I believe the gym, I would look like the girl in the red bikini in the center left picture. It is not that far away from the truth, however, I think the 20-22% range would be more accurate. My 15% measurement this time doesn't give accurate results, however, at least it is rather flattering.

There are so many different formulas for calculating BodyFat% out there, that you will never get a definite answer. You should treat BodyFat% similar to your weight--it is a rough measure that you can use as a tracking tool for progress, but most of the time you might be better off just ignoring it unless you use professional guidance to track your weight loss journey, as online examples not offered by professional fitness services are dangerously unreliable. 

So how can you keep track of progress?

If you have read my last post (and I hope you all did), you will know the answer to this question. Take a before picture, and then take a picture of yourself every 2-4 weeks. That way you are able to actually see your progress. You will also be able to feel the difference, as your jeans are getting bigger and you aren't struggling to get up to your first floor flat anymore. Another good way of keeping track of your achievements is measuring the diameters of your problem zones. Take the measurements of your arms, waist, hips and upper thigh every time you take a selfie, and if you have been good with your diet and exercise, I promise these numbers will fall.

Where does this leave us? Use 'fitness measurements' as rough guidelines, and don't get too hung up about them. The only thing you should care about in the beginning is the amount of food you are eating (and don't forget those drinks!) relative to your exercise routine. In the end, numbers don't really matter; the most important part is seeing the change, feeling healthy, and being happy. I mean, Who likes math anyway?!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Is that really ME?!

I have been sticking to a healthy lifestyle for just over a year now: this includes making conscious food choices and committing to regular exercises (cardio and strength training). The changes to my body (inside and out) have been great--however, as I (sometimes shockingly) see myself in the mirror every day, I don't realise how great my transformation was, and still is. Because you are always more critical with yourself, it seems that you see yourself in a different light than other people would. This can be good and bad.

If you feel like you have stagnated, and there haven't been any positive changes, you might be more motivated to stick to your healthy diet and exercise plan even more than before. You might feel like the gym session is more worth going to. And when you realise that you  have reached a plateau, you can make appropriate changes.

However, if you are being too critical and hard on yourself, you can enter a vicious cycle of desperation. What do I mean by that? Well, if you are too focused on what is wrong with you and your body, these negative thoughts can actually hold you back. They make you more vulnerable to your weaknesses. For example, I used to be VERY particular about what I ate, because I wanted to cut out sugar and wheat completely. Because I was so focused on what not to do, I failed to reward myself completely, which made me unhappy. When I was unhappy, I wanted cake (natural reaction, right?). But I wasn't allowed to have cake, which made me want it even more. At some point in this chain of reactions, I would just go 'Bloody Hell, this is stupid--let's have a cake-fest!' This did not end with me having ONE piece of cake, but the WHOLE cake (yes, it was carrot cake, and yes my stomach is very stretchy). After that I would feel terrible, and again start the cycle of restricting myself completely.

Something similar can happen when you don't see progress anymore. The closer you get towards your dream body, the slower the changes will appear. If you feel like nothing is happening anymore, you either give up because all this effort isn't paying off, or you think you have to get even stricter to achieve what you want. And that is where the problem lies.

Tracking, measuring and viewing your progress is extremely important not only for your motivation, but for your overall sanity. The easiest way to do that is to take before and after pictures. When you start your journey towards a healthy and fit life, take a photo of yourself in underwear. Do not try to make it any better by sucking in your stomach or flexing your biceps. That defeats the purpose. From then on, regularly look at yourself in the mirror, assess your body, become more familiar with it, and take a photo. If you love taking pictures of yourself, you can do it once a day (I feel like lots of people on facebook do that...). I think once every two to four weeks would work best because I feel that for most body types, that seems to be a good interval to perceive changes. Keep the pictures in a folder on your laptop, and everytime you doubt yourself, or you are unhappy with the way you look, or you feel like you are stuck, go back to that folder and see how far you have come!

Unfortunately, I have not kept track of my progress regularly, and I really regret that. I have now reached a stage where progress is almost invisible--however, when I look back at pictures of me from a year ago, I am quite proud of myself! I would love to see, however, if there has been any change in the last 4 - 3- 2- 1 months though. Learn from my mistakes and track your progress.

At the moment, I can only offer to you some old travel pictures, which unfortunately is not the same as taking proper fitness before and after pictures. However, I think you can definitely get the idea!

Yes, you can see the difference. And please don't get me wrong, I am very proud of what I have achieved. However, now I find it difficult to see if my hard work and efforts are paying off now--which sometimes negatively impacts my motivation. So, take a photo of yourself right now, no matter what level of fitness you are at! Get into the habit of taking photos of yourself regularly: don't be critical, be constructive.

If you would like to have access to more tracking tools, advice and motivation, Register free at .

In the end, it is great to go back to those 'Before' pictures and wonder "IS THAT REALLY ME?!"

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thank You Anna!

Wanted to send a huge thank you to Anna for doing such an amazing job and helping out while I've been putting all my efforts towards working on re-designing / programming the site.  Can't thank you enough!

Love the posts and sincerely appreciate your help!

Mike Davis  CSCS, NASM-CPT & GFS
[email protected]

Monday, October 14, 2013

Oh, you sweet, sweet Cravings.

I would argue that 90% of the world population nowadays is addicted to sugar. Everything in the supermarket is injected with it, even the meat. This makes it incredibly hard to stay healthy and cut out sugar and the corresponding carbs.

When I decided to change my lifestyle and diet, I wanted to cut out sugar completely. Now I know that this idea was silly, seeing that your brain needs a little glucose to function properly. However, I do try to only include natural sugar from fruit and maybe a bit of milk or dairy. (If you have a lot of weight to lose, you might want to limit your fruit intake to 1 or 2 servings per day, because even though they are natural, they do spike up your blood sugar. Try to get the rest of your 5 a day from vegetables.)

Cutting out sugar actually has been one of the biggest challenges in my fitness journey so far. We are surrounded by sugary, unhealthy things, and ironically enough - they are the once that taste good, too. I think that I am addicted to sugar - and as it is with every addiction, staying away from the drug isn't easy. Cravings get worse when I am bored, or when I'm emotional. I still haven't perfected my tactics of dealing with cravings, but I thought I should share them with you anyways, and I would appreciate it if you could share your strategy and tactics as well.

1. Are you hungry, or are you just craving food?

When you feel like you HAVE to eat something, take a step back and analyze your hunger. (Very) generally speaking, there are two types of hunger: Physical Hunger and Emotional Hunger.

1a) Physical Hunger
Physical Hunger is a natural process that occurs when your body is running low on energy. It comes gradually and can be postponed. When you are properly hungry, you don't really mind what food you are eating (obviously you have favourites), but what this means is that any food can satisfy your hunger. In this instance, you know when you're full. You can stop anytime when your body has had enough energy intake, and you rarely overeat. After eating you feel satisfied.

1b) Emotional Hunger
This is not really hunger - more of a craving. You feel like you are going to die if you don't have a specific food (pizza, chocolate, carrot cake - oh my god I love carrot cake, ice cream etc.). Even though you know these foods are bad for you, and they will hinder your weight loss and fitness goals - they are all you can think about. Cravings creep up on you. They peek around the corner and jump at you. It is a sudden feeling of wanting to put tasty food into your mouth. Because cravings are so sudden and feel so urgent, you are very likely to overeat or at least eat more than you normally would. After you gorge on those tasty foods you are left feeling guilty and you regret your decision of opening that ice cream tub.

You can see, there is a clear difference between hunger and cravings. Before you do anything, you need to identify which of those two phenomena you are falling victim to.

2. How to deal with Hunger

This one is a no-brainer. Make some delicious food. If you are on the edge of starvation, go for veggies and dip whilst you cook your meal. If you have time, prepare something you like and that is healthy. For example, my go-to, quick dish is chicken seasoned with spices (curry, paprika, chili and olive oil), cooked in the oven for 30 minutes. With the chicken I have salad that is made of sour cream (+Italian Seasoning), romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber, mozzarella and avocado.

3. How to deal with Cravings

Now this one is tough. I have developed some strategies to take my mind off unhealthy food when I crave it, but I have to admit that they don't work all the time. I also asked other people how they deal with cravings, and here is a list of the 6 best strategies that we found have worked best:

  • Talk to a friend. This one has multiple benefits, and is my personal favorite. If you are feeling alone, or you have relationship trouble, talking to a friend about your issues is not only the healthier choice, but also the more helpful one. It never happened to me that my love life got sorted by eating a whole box of cookies (unfortunately). Furthermore, if you tell your friend, family member or flatmate that you have a craving and that you do NOT want to give in to it, they can motivate you to stick to your promise. They can help you take your mind of things. It would also be really embarrassing if you give this long speech about how you really want some cake, but that you will be strong and not give in to your urges - and the next second your friend sees you stuffing your face with chocolate brownies. 
  • Reward yourself from time to time. Personally, I don't necessarily believe in cheat days. I think if I had a cheat day, I would end up in hospital due to an overdose of carrot cake. With me it literally works like this: Once the gate is open, the flood is coming in. I have no self-control once I start cheating. However, a lot of my friends swear by small treats. Some people have one 'nice' thing a day (sugary muesli in the morning, a cereal bar, a couple of pieces of chocolate) and it keeps them going. Other people have one cheat meal per week, which satisfies them and motivates them to stick to a healthy diet until next Sunday.
  • Make a list of all the bad things that happen when you binge and overeat. I made that list last time I ate too much crunchy cereal, and felt so full that I didn't want to leave the house. Don't let cravings control your life. I pinned the list on my pinnboard in my room, and every time I feel a craving coming along, I just have to look at the sheet of paper to be reminded of the stomach cramps the binging gave me. (I will attach a photo of my list at the end of this).
  • Try to take your mind off food. Call a friend. Go for a walk. Paint your nails. Take a shower. Shave your legs. Reorganise something. Drink water or tea. I am sure the list can go on and on. This strategy is especially effective when you only want to eat because you are bored.
  • Buy expensive treats. Now, seeing that I am a student, this seems counter-intuitive. Coming from Germany, the high food prices in the UK make my heart bleed. However, I have discovered a Health Food store near my house, and I purchased some awesome Raw Food crunchy snacks, that also go well with my nutrition plan. Seeing that I have to pay 4 pounds ($6.50) for less than 100g, I am incredibly cautious of how much I am eating. I also start to think twice about if I really need this snack right now. At this stage it is also good to mention to opt for healthy alternatives. When you are watching a movie or TV show and you want to munch on something (I always want to snack when I watch something), maybe make carrots, cucumber, pepper and some hummus or sour cream and chives. I also found raw chocolate that is sugar free, gluten free and dairy free - it actually tastes pretty good, too. I know it is not the same, but often it helps. 
  • If worst comes to worst and you can't resist, make sure you control your portions. The other day my flatmate said: "I only eat what fits in my hand." I think that is a great way to go about it, seeing that your stomach is only a little bit bigger than your fist. This way you can satisfy your craving whilst not regretting your decision afterwards.

(Once again, please excuse the terrible quality. At some point in the nearer future I will invest into a better phone.)

I hope these tips and tricks are of some value to you. I know that none of them are 100% successful, but maybe you can try a combination. If, however, you do give in to a binge-attack, try to get back on track as soon as possible. Don't punish yourself by restricting your calories or swearing to put in an extra 3 hours at the gym the day after. It doesn't work like that. Something similar happened to me last semester. I gave in to my cravings almost every second day, and would overeat on cereal, chocolate, gummy bears, cookies, ice cream and all these things. Afterwards I would feel terrible and guilty, and swear to myself that from the next day on, I would stick to healthy eating and work out even harder. However, the next day the craving would hit me even harder, BECAUSE I would put so much pressure on myself. In the end you are trapped in a vicious cycle. Learn from your mistakes, and then move on. If you Register free at we can help you to generate a nutrition plan that satisfies you whilst being healthy, and also provide moral support throughout your journey.

Craving is a bitch. You have to learn to treat it like one.

Anna Buchmann
[email protected]

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Yeah, She Benches!

I’m not sure how many of you have seen this Facebook Page: Yeah, She Benches. It shows you pictures of half naked Fitness Models and wants to animate women to start going to the gym to get nice, round boobies. For the curious of you, here is the link:

However, everyone who has eyes in their head and uses their brain more than just for breathing will be able to see that those boobies are not exactly real. Most Fitness Models (and please correct me if I’m wrong) get implants, because their body fat percentage has dropped so low that their boobs turn into packs. I think in that situation it is actually fair enough to get surgery, because otherwise you don’t really look like a woman anymore. What I do not agree with, however, is the image pages like this put into girls’ heads. Your boobs will not look like that, even if you do Bench press every day of the week. They will not grow and they will not perk up with a 90° angle. Please don’t be fooled and don’t be disappointed if your natural, soft, bouncy, comfortable boobies do not look like this.

Nevertheless, Bench press is a worthwhile exercise that you should definitely include into your training plan. Like squats, it is a compound movement, which works out your arms (bicep and a bit of triceps), shoulders, chest, upper back, a bit core. Doing this exercise has many benefits, and I do think that my boobs look perkier after I started working out my chest (unfortunately they have NOT grown). So I decided to walk you through the exercise and help you get it right without injury.

When you do Bench press, try to have someone around that can spot you. Either bring a friend, or make a friend at the gym (this is a GREAT conversation starter at the gym: “Hi, I’m Anna. I was wondering if you could help me with Bench press. I need someone to spot me.”) It happened to me before that I got trapped. My arms didn’t have enough power left to complete the last set, and I was lying under this 35 kg (don’t laugh) heavy bar and I could barely move. Fortunately, the bar is light enough to role it down my body without getting hurt, and there was also a guy lifting it off me. However, if you start benching more weight, this could get quite painful. So get a helping hand.

 1.  Position yourself on the bench.

Make sure your body is straight and exactly in the middle of the bar. That way you are able to better balance the bar. Grab the bar with your hands. Make sure they are both the same distance away from the middle. Usually, there are marks or stripes on the bar which can help you to align your fingers. You can chose between a close and a wide grip. The wider the grip, the more you use your back muscles. A closer grip uses more of your biceps and triceps muscle to move the bar. I usually try to position my hands somewhere in the middle (yes, I’m a fence-sitter) so make sure I work out arms, chest and back. When you are ready, lift the bar from its stand and with straight arms hold it on top of your chest. (I know, it looks like there is a huge jungle growing under my arms - I promise it is just a shadow...)

2. Performing the Exercise

Keeping your arms on the same height, slowly lower the bar towards your chest. Try not to stick out your elbows. Make sure the bar stays on top of your chest; do not lift it above your face. When the bar touches your chest, lift it up again, always putting in the same effort with both arms in order to keep the bar straight. Repeat these movements and voila (!) – you are benching!

 3.  Positioning

The next two pictures show the movement from the side. Tuck your feet in a little. That enables you to use your lower body to also push a little if your upper body fails to complete the movement. Pay attention to where the bar is – always above your chest (you want to get those boobies working).

 4. Alternative Positioning

The other day, a staff at the gym (her name was Anna, too – it must have been fate) showed me a different way of doing Bench press, and I think I actually prefer it. In this method, you put your feet up the bench, and stick your knees up in the air. Slightly lift your ass and lower back up to create some space between you and the bench (you don’t have to lift it as high as I did in the photo – I exaggerated a little). Perform the exercise as described before. If you do the movement now, you have a wider range with your back muscles, which makes it easier to move the bar. This way you work out your back a little more, and you are more likely to be able to lift the weight. However, I would first try Benchpress with your whole body on the bench, because you first have to find your balance etc. If your body is lifted off the bench, balancing becomes more of a challenge.

I usually do 3 sets, 8 reps of benchpress. I am convinced that these kind of exercises are harder for women than for men, because our chest muscles have a different structure (same with pull-ups and push-ups). But maybe that is just an excuse. At the moment I can bench between 30-35 kg, depending on the day and my mood. I have seen girls who can do a lot more, but please be careful with the weight, there is always the possibility that you accidently drop it on your face.

Now you are one step closer to perky boobs! If you feel uncomfortable with the bar, try Dumbbell Benchpress first. It works the same way, but you don’t have to balance the weight as much, and you can train up your arms to be able to lift more weight. Ease yourself into the exercise. For professional help and advise, Register free at

I hope these posts really help you getting more comfortable with more complex and scary looking exercises. Once you get started with weights, it’s like an addiction – you can’t stop. You also feel super cool, because in the gym you are now playing with the big boys. The other day I was walking through the Meadows (a really nice park in the beautiful city of Edinburgh), and a PR person from another gym approached me, handing me a flyer with their deals and opening times. He also added that they have really good Zumba and Dancing Classes. I looked at him, smiling, thinking “Yeah, I lift. Yeah, I bench.”

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Squat it like its HOT!

Today I want to talk about one of my favorite exercises: SQUATS.

Squatting is one of the hardest (if done properly), but most effective exercises out there. It's considered a compound movement, because you engage your full body whilst performing the movement. Squats help you build muscle in your back (especially lower back), core, quads, calves and especially your buttocks. Let's be honest - our back is the only reason we would perform such exhausting exercise. However, since you involve all those muscles, there is a great potential to hurt yourself, and that is why I want to take the time to explain how to perform a Squat in a safe and effective way.

First a little disclaimer - everyone does squats differently, and swears by their method. If you found a method that works for you, feel free to stick to it. What I am going to show you has worked for me, and even though (unfortunately) my bum is not huge, I am the proud owner of a tiny gap (yes, THE GAP) and a cute little bubble butt.

Secondly, to all the girls out there - take a risk, and put on some weight. Not on your hips, but on your shoulders. Doing weighted exercises is so much more effective than body weight (if you want to lose fat and tone up that is), and those 5 pounds on your shoulders won't make a difference. Get one of your guy friends to show you around the weight room and help get the form right. Think about it that way: Your legs carry your body weight around all day - they can squat more than 10 pounds! Obviously you have to get your weights up in small steps - don't dive in head first - but give it a try and see how you go. I started out with the bar (20kg) and am now squatting my body weight (60kg). It's worth it!

Now let's get started. I will put up a couple of photos (please excuse the terrible quality - those guys at the gym really weren't born to be photographers) and point out the important bits.

1. You start up standing straight with the weight on your shoulders (if this is your first time, you obviously would start without weights to get the form right)

(Yes, as I said, the quality is terrible, but I'm sure you get the hang of it. Put the bar on the meaty bits of your shoulder, that way it is more comfortable.)

2. Slowly squat down until you reach a 90° angle, keeping your back straight. Make sure you shift your weight onto your heels. Squat backwards, so that your knees do NOT move above your big toe. It's like sitting down onto a sofa. Once again KEEP YOUR BACK STRAIGHT. This is the most important part, as your lower back is most likely to be the weakest link, and thus the body part that gets hurt the easiest.

(If you have difficulties getting down to 90° and keeping your knees behind your toes, widen your stand. Open your feet so that your toes point outwards. Try again, but make sure that your knees follow your toes when you go down. Don't let them move together.)

(If you can go lower than 90°, great! The lower, the better. Go as low as possible, it will work out your glutes more, but be aware that you don't go too low. If you reach a certain level, it is hard to come up again - believe me, I had some awkward moments in the gym. That's why I'd like you to try this exercise first without weights. Most gyms also have squat racks, like the ones you can see in the background. If you fail, you can rest the weights on the side bar and are saved from being trapped.)

(Whatever you do - Keep your back straight! If you have trouble keeping your lower back straight, go down with the weights. Yes, it is awesome to squat more than the guy next to you, but you do NOT want to hurt your back. I learned it the hard way, and believe me, you do not want to go there.)

3. After you squatted down and thought of all those details I provided you with, you push up, using your glutes and your quads, KEEPING YOUR BACK STRAIGHT, and come up right back into the standing position that is shown in the first photo.

Depending on the weight, I usually do 3 sets, 12 reps. I will tell you more about the science of sets and reps in a later post. If you are looking to get help with an exercise plan that also includes great resistance training such as squats, Register free at

For now I want you to get those butts moving and practice those squats.

Ass to Grass, everyone!

Anna Buchmann
[email protected]

Monday, October 7, 2013

Don't Starve - Snack!

I used to think equation for weight loss is simple: eat less, weigh less. Now I know: it is really not that easy. Even though Mother Nature programmed our bodies so that we could survive without food for an extended period of time (in case hunting wasn't successful), we are not designed to starve ourselves. Nowadays it is too easy to go to the supermarket and buy the food we want, and our minds and bodies are used to being fed regularly. So when we don't eat, our body switches into starvation mode - which will lead to even greater fat production, and overeating in the long run.

I usually exercise 1 hour or 1.5 hours after a meal, so that I have enough energy but don't feel sick. This weekend, I went to the gym with a friend, and because she looooves to sleep in on a Sunday, she only had a small portion of food for breakfast. During exercise, you could hear her tummy rumbling, and she realized that her performance was going down due to a lack of energy. After the gym, she only ate a small amount of food again, because we were planning to go out for dinner that night. And that is when the issue arises. Because her body has been craving food all day, and because she ignored the hunger feelings until the last minute, she hopelessly overate at dinner. I couldn't even count the minutes until her Chicken Tikka Masala, Mango Cheesecake and two coffees were gone. At the end of the night, when we were home, she couldn't move because her stomach was so full, and she felt like she was going to be sick. Later she slipped into a self-induced food coma.

I have had these issues countless times. I wouldn't eat enough, either because I was planning on a big meal later on, or because I thought starving myself would make me skinny. However, these kind of plans are guaranteed to backfire. If the hunger feelings go away after a while, it is only so to come back twice as strong an hour later. It gets harder and harder to control yourself, and in the end you eat more than you should have, and are often left feeling sick and guilty.

You can avoid the problem of overeating by having regular meals and snacks, and listening to your body, rather than your head. If you are hungry in between meals, have a little snack. After a meal, wait 20 minutes and let your food sink in until you decide if you need more food or not. If you don't know how you should plan your meals, and what you should be eating to meet your goals ,Register with Free! and we will create a nutrition plan suited perfectly for your needs.

Here is a list of some of my favorite healthy snacks:
  • Raw veggies and dip
  • Hard boiled eggs -
  • Apple slices and peanut butter
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Yogurt and nuts
However, my ABSOLUTE favorite is what I call 'Fake Sushi'. I have to admit - it is nothing like sushi - but if you look at how it is made, the name makes sense.
Fake Sushi
What you need:

  • Chicken breast slices (those lunch meat slices)
  • Cream cheese (you can choose whichever you like - fat free, full fat, with or without herbs)
  • Raw vegetable (cucumber, tomato, celery, carrot, pepper...)

What you do:
  • Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on top of the chicken breast slice
  • Put a small piece of veggie on one end
  • Roll the veggie in the chicken slice, just like sushi

How easy is that? These Fake Sushi pieces are super delicious (especially if you are craving something salty), and if you use cucumber as your veggie, they are nice and crunchy, too.
So please stop starving yourself, you will only achieve the exact opposite of your goals, and you will feel grumpy and miserable doing so.


Anna Buchmann
[email protected]

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Exercise Yourself Happy!

This week it has been tough for me to motivate myself to go and do my workouts. There comes a time where life gets in the way, you are extremely busy, and you just don't feel like exercising. Funnily enough, this is usually a time where exercising can be most beneficial to you. Let’s look at a couple of scenarios, all of which I have experienced at least once, and which I am sure most of you can relate to.

Scenario 1: Emotional Roller-Coaster

We all have been in a situation where we are either just unhappy with our partner, generally heartbroken, or sick of single life. In that case, we curl up in bed, watch a bad TV show and eat ice cream. Usually I am a defender of the 'Ice-Cream-Makes-Everything-Better-Movement', but recently I have found that exercising and healthy, delicious food lift up my mood and self-confidence a lot more. This week I have been feeling a little down, and when I went to the gym on Wednesday to complete my workout and meet a friend to do Crossfit, I really wasn't feeling it. After the first set of Crossfit I gave up and said I couldn't exercise because of my bad mood. My friend then offered me to do pad work - and it was the best thing that could have happened to me! For about 30 minutes I was hitting and punching and sweating, and got rid of all my sadness, anger and frustration. I felt relieved. It was an exhausting workout, and when I came home I knew I accomplished another step towards my dream body. If you are feeling depressed about relationships or you are unhappy with yourself, go and let off steam during your workouts. Really get those bikes spinning, or push yourself at the free-weights gym. You will not only feel better, but look better!

Scenario 2: Work Work Work

At first this seems counter intuitive. You have so much work that your whole day is planned out, and then I am telling you to make time for the gym? Yes! Take out an hour of your day, put on those sexy pants and work your butt off! Especially during cardio, you can let your mind wander, and let go all together. It is just you and the Crosstrainer. It is just you and the waves in the pool. It is just you and your running shoes (you might want to put on more clothes than that - people tend to stare). During exercising, Endorphins are released in your body, which make you happy and will increase your enthusiasm for going back to work. Sweating can be seen as an analogy for bad thoughts and stress leaving your body. After completing a tough workout you feel like you can conquer the world. However, for me personally, the most important part of working out is devoting time to myself. Whilst I am sweating away at the gym, I can really think about my life and what is going on at the moment - I can develop my schedule, come up with a new business idea, or just weigh the pros and cons of a decision I have to make. So in the end, you devoted an hour of your time to clearing up your head and making space for enthusiasm and motivation for the rest of the day!

Scenario 3: Hello? Anybody out there?

Have you ever felt like you don't want to hang out with your friends, because you have spent so much time with them lately? Do you want to try out something different, and meet new people? Are you wondering where all the attractive men (even if you're just looking) hide during the day? Try out the gym! The gym is a meeting place for like-minded people - interested in fitness, health and nutrition. Find a workout buddy, or just chat to the other members and trainers. It is a social place, and you will be surprised how many people from vastly different backgrounds you will meet. Recently, I stopped listening to music during my workouts, and instead made friends with the trainers at my gym. My workouts are so much more enjoyable now, because I usually have people to chat to (but don't lose focus) and someone who can give me a hand if I need it. Exercising together can also be a good way to improve and renew old friendships - have some deep and meaningful conversation with your best friend whilst walking along the local river or climbing the mountain next to your house. Invite a new friend to go on a bike tour and enjoy a delicious picnic in the sun. There are many ways to make your workout not only fun, but sociable.

I know getting into exercising and starting a healthy lifestyle can be daunting at first. You might think that it can't help improving your happiness, or that you don't have time, or that you will be the only one out there 'suffering'. But I promise you, that is not true. I started exercising and looking after my nutrition about a year ago, and the changes have been massive. I am not only happier with the way I look, but I am a more balanced person in general. Of course you don't have to do all that by yourself. It is hard to know where to start, and then stick to it once you have to make sacrifices for your health. That is why the ProFitnessPlans Team is here for you. We will stick with you throughout the entire process of turning around your life, and accompany you along your path to health and fitness. Our personalized exercise and nutrition plans can help you to get started, and our experienced and certified trainers will make sure you stay motivated and focused. We are here whenever you need our help. If you are interested in an online account, Register free at

So what should you take from this post? Exercising is therapy - with guaranteed results!

Anna Buchmann
[email protected]