With 6 weeks to go until my first bodybuilding competition of the year, it’s time to step up the conditioning and get shredded! I’ve called in various favours and asked some people in the biz to blast me, beast me and generally put me through my paces.
Yesterday, I popped over to Five Star Health and Fitness, a new (opened this week) gym and training facility in Windsor. Wow, what a place! Tim Benjamin (locals may know him from his other gym – The Fitness Space in Ascot) and his team have done an amazing job with the building, transforming it into a light, bright, welcoming gym kitted out with the very best in CV cardio machines, functional training and conditioning kit, free weights, kinesis resistance technology and an entire MMA room with a cage and everything!
I urge you to take a look at the Five Star website to get all the info about what’s there (including the 51 classes on offer!) but in a nutshell:
1) strength training area
2) functional training kit
3) MMA (mixed martial arts) area
4) 51 classes
5) CV kit from Technogym’s high-tech Excite + range
There’s also a sauna and steam room… what a blissful bonus extra!
A bit about Tim: the son of a Professor of Anatomy, Tim was always interested in the human form, strength and performance. As I mentioned in my Olympic-inspired “track starts” post yesterday, Tim competed as a 400m runner at a very high level, coming 2nd at the World Grand Prix final in 2005. He’s a Poliquin S&C (strength and conditioning) coach. His own values – of inspiring confidence and getting results – are evident at Five Star. The facility’s five steps to success (discover, design, deliver, reflect and achieve) have been put together with the aim of getting results for every member who walks through the door, whether it’s a 71 year old woman recovering from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (I met her as I came in!) or an elite athlete.
Or me for that matter! Here’s what Tim had dreamed up for me in the depths of his strength and conditioning mind….
First we worked with a Bulgarian bag. I’ve seen these bits of kit around but never used one. Like all the best bits of kit, they look so innocent… until you use them. They can be used in many ways but we started off with one of the most common – and effective – movements which is swinging the bag around your head, keeping the arms close to the head and incorporating the entire body, driving from the hips and rotating the torso. We also did snatches.
Then we moved on to the TRX (other suspension trainers are available) I’ve used suspension training before and, again, it’s deceptive. You think “how hard can that be?”… the answer is – as hard as you want to make it!
Then came kettlebell swings (I was OK with these as I have KBs at home) before Tim asked me to do something which I feel is neither natural nor necessary, quite frankly. Namely, to lift both my feet off the ground at the same time. Otherwise known as “jumping”. Yep, I had to sling the Bulgarian bag around my neck like a yoke and “bunny hop” (a massive insult to bunnies across the world) down the gym and back again. Not easy, particularly when you lack grace, explosive power and agility.
Finally it was off to the rowing machine where I had to blast through 200m as fast as I could.
That little lot… three times through. With just 90s rest between circuits (no rest between exercises). This is what it looked like in my notepad:
– Bulgarian bag swings x 10 each side
– Bulgarian bag snatches x 10
– TRX atomic press ups (press up into pike) x 20 (!)
– TRX row (at an angle – killer) alternate grip x 20
– TRX squat jump (at an angle – quad dominant) x 20
– Kettlebell swings x 20
– Bunny hops with Bulgarian bag on back – there and back
– 200m row
– 90s rest
3 times through.
All of that probably took no more than 20 minutes, but it’s not the length of the workout which matters with this kind of training, it’s intensity and effort – and what happens to your body afterwards!
What I liked about this circuit was that it was really challenging but great fun too, because it used a lot of “toys” and was fast-paced, changing between kit all the time. There were some things I was OK with, some I thought I’d be OK with (I told Tim the TRX rows would be like a recovery for me – he couldn’t contain his giggles when this turned out to be anything but the case!) and some I was most definitely not OK with (the jumping!)
Here’s what Tim said about this conditioning session:
“As you have just a few weeks to go until your competition, I wanted to design a session for you which would really ramp up your basal metabolic rate. So, the point of this session wasn’t so much the calorie burn achieved during it (although that’s not insignificant) but the increased metabolic rate once you leave the gym. In fact, this increase in BMR can continue for up to 37 hours after a session like this. The session was anaerobic, used big compound multi-joint movements and avoided targeting any particular muscle group (as I know you train your muscle groups separately). You’ll get a massive metabolic boost from this session and it will also hit your core, your shoulders, your back, your quads, your posterior chain….”
Yes yes, thank you Tim. 😉
I can report that I was knackered and already a bit sore by the time I left the gym – in particular, I could feel it in my lats (probably due to the rotational movement of those Bulgarian bag swings?) By the time I’d got home (30 minutes later) I was shattered. I slept like a log. This morning? I’m hungry, sore but full of energy.
Verdict: a success! Fun, challenging and a kick up the backside for my metabolism.
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.