Millie and I began personal training together in August this year, with the goal of increasing Millie’s upper body strength, and improving her overall body toning.
In order to meet these goals, I put together a full body workout plan for Millie, which consisted of the following elements:
Compound leg exercises such as kettle bell squats and deadlifts, split squats and glider lunges
Upper body dumbbell exercises such as dumbbell pullovers, lat pullbacks, pec flyes, lateral raises, shoulder presses, and bent over rows
TVA, outer abdominal and back exercises such as bird-dogs, dead bugs, plank variations, and boat pose variations
Now, you may notice that’s quite a lot of content to cover in a six-week programme…. And that’s the important part - while I made sure that the exercises we worked on always targeted the right balance of muscles groups, I varied them every week.
Say what?! Well. While learning the foundations of safe movement pathways is essential when working with weights, if you want to improve your overall muscle tone, one of the most important things you can do is challenge your body with as much variety and complexity as possible.
This is because muscles are made up of fibres, which are clustered together into little units. Each unit, known as a motor unit, is fed by a nerve that carries signals to and from the spinal cord telling it when to contract and relax. The feeling we experience of being toned, or seeing muscle tone on someone’s body essentially relates to how many of these individual units are currently ‘awake’, or in communication with the spinal cord. (Great post here for those who are interested).
Simply put, this means that the more you ask your body to move in new and challenging ways, the more motor units you will recruit, and the more toned you will feel overall. Not only does this look and feel great, but it lays the foundations for doing more specific strength training later on, when results are achieved by increasing the size of individual fibres in a certain muscle.
There are many ways of increasing the neuronal complexity of an exercise, which include combining two movements into one, working unilaterally, working on an unstable surface, and working with reduced sensory feedback. I won't give away all my secrets of how I applied these to Millie's programme (!), but you can see her in action in the video below, performing unilateral free weights exercises on the BOSU trainer. If that doesn’t count as neuronal enrichment, I don’t know what does!!
Well done Millie! You’ve been amazing to work with and have picked up some really tough combinations like a true pro! Keep going and I can't wait to work with you on the next challenge!! Xxx