Healthy Living London’s Hannah Cox has recently been training with Fabio Domingues, a PT and instructor at Fight City Gym in Moorgate, London. Fabio has shared his top tips to get the best results when training. These PT tips can be useful to gym aficionados and new comers alike.
I have found Fabio’s PT sessions beneficial and educational, so I asked Fabio about his top tips. His valid and insightful knowledge about training, your body and your mind, is, in my opinion, essential. His passion for the subject is clear: he has a lot to say!
PT Fabio’s Top Tips To Get The Best Results When Training
Start at the point where you are at
Your starting point is to assess your movements. That way, you can increase the likelihood of generating better results, whilst avoiding aggravating conditions that can be detrimental to your progress. In knowing your limitations in terms of movement and imbalances, you can maximise your strong points and develop your weaker points.
A good PT, an osteopath or a physiotherapist can assess you. This allows you to learn about your body and how to bring balance and produce better results. (Most health insurances, if you have one, allow cover for a physiotherapist.)
You won’t be free of the risk of having an injury though. However, you will minimise perpetuating a bad habit and will get exponential results with your training and, it will avoid setbacks.
Avoid the “monkey see, monkey do”
When using a gym, you will meet many different people with many different goals and you will inevitably meet the social media obsessed who are more concerned in uploading pictures to Instagram.
One man’s meat is another man’s poison.
Be careful with copy and paste in exercising. Assuming the people you see training know what they are doing is quite a big risk. It’s very likely that some of them are following a program and are executing a routine adequate to their goals. But, unfortunately, the majority are just doing what they saw someone else doing, or what they read in a magazine, or saw on YouTube or Instagram and you think that if it works for them, it should work for you too. And that’s when all goes wrong.
You don’t get the results you want, or you get an injury, or you can’t do the exercise properly… and you give up on training all together.
Look for guidance from professionals, such as a PT, who can help you with creating a program tailored to you, considering all the variables (load, repetitions, sets, tempo, rest, cycle, etc). And if you feel like copying something you see someone else doing, try to understand what that can do for you and why it may be helpful for you.
Ditch the phone
Live the moment. Live the exercise. Every repetition counts.
No, no excuses. Doesn’t matter how busy you are; emails, texts, messages and updates on social media can wait. Avoid the distraction. Use the training time to understand your body. Feel the moving parts. Notice the effects. Practice mindfulness. Don’t go for a set of bench presses thinking about your shopping list – you will either fail or under perform. Focus.
Some guys in particular are like Maori warriors around the equipment they are using. They scare the shit out of everybody who even comes close to it.
We all have to start somewhere. Even the best performers, in any field, had to start somewhere. Just because you are at a different level than someone else, do not use that against them. Be kind and friendly because there’s always something to learn. Plus, a nice environment is more likely to keep you coming back.
That doesn’t mean that you have to shake everybody’s hand every time you are training (believe me, some people do. Every time. Everyday) but be cordial. Share the equipment, return your weights, wipe your sweat from the benches and machines.
Watch for hygiene
Exercising generates heat. You will start to sweat. Some will sweat a bit, some a lot. But in the end, that smells.
In order to offend people less, make sure you wear clean clothes. It doesn’t have to be an expensive piece of kit. That T-Shirt from the 5K you ran 10 years ago does the job. All you have to do is to wash that often enough.
Deodorant is very desirable too. You might not sense the smell coming from your current condition, but other people do. Cleanliness and hygiene are a must.
Listen to your body
You have to listen to your body. And by that I mean, understand and respect the limits of it. Most people who train think that you have to feel pain. That, if in the end of a workout you are neither breathless nor moving like a mummy, you didn’t go hard enough.
When you are training there are different ‘pains’ you can have. You can have the pain from the exertion – you are working your body and taking it out of your normal balance (the key concept is homeostasis, or the condition where your body is working at the best rate. Some call it ‘the comfort zone’). You can also have pain because you executed a bad repetition and hit the wrong joint. And finally, you can have the pain that means something is not doing you any good. That happens when the movement is hitting a weak point and that pain can’t be ignored. It denotes wrong functioning of an important part of the body. If you ignore it, not just your performance will get worse, but you will also feel pain in day-to-day movements. That’s the time to stop, fix and restart.
Pain is the red light on the panel. You can’t ignore it for long. It will stop you sooner or later.
Another point to consider is the condition of your body, physically and mentally. For example; if you have a cold, didn’t sleep well, are taking medication, having an asthma attack, have high blood pressure… maybe take a break, listen to your body, as now may not be the best time to be exercising. Remember that when exercising, your body is working harder; your immune system will get temporarily overworked and so will be your liver, your heart, your lungs. You also need a good cognitive ability to coordinate your movements. So, sometimes, you need to know when to stop. A healthy body will get healthier with exercises. A sick body can get worse by exercising. In the latter, it’s best to recover and come back full force.
Know when to rest
It’s a common thought that, you have to hit the gym 7 times a week if you want to get the best of your body. Science proves this wrong. The best performance athletes (those of us who do all that benching and squatting for a living) have rest periods and easy ‘off’ before competitions. Your body needs time to recover. That way you can get going stronger. When training you destroy the old and build the new (we are talking about muscles!). Rest is needed to respect the time for the rebuilding. That’s why some people do legs one day and chest the next for example. It’s about giving time to heal (time definitely heals it all).
And fear not. You can go on holidays and not train for a week. When you come back it will be a bit more painful as your body was on a break and had a week of indulging, but you will come back to peak form after a short adaptation.
Focus on the skills you need
There’s a reason why Usain Bolt (so far the fastest man alive) looks so different from Eliud Kipchoge (the Kenyan runner who in 2019 won the London Marathon for the fourth time). They use their bodies in different ways because they have different needs. Usain Bolt can do a good time in a marathon. But he is far too heavy to overtake Eliud.
And all that power he gets to run like the wind comes from exercising and strengthen the muscles that can generate the power to run faster. That doesn’t mean he only does squats and deadlifts. His coach understands that, the mechanics of the body goes beyond legs movement for sprinters. So, he benches a hell of a lot of weights and he does lots of cleans (Olympic movement consisting in moving an astronomic amount of weight in a bar from the floor to the top of your chest).
The point is: learn skills. One of the things that I like to develop with my clients is the concept of transferable skills. For the fighters, we figure out the motions they will go through and we work movements that will assist in getting punches and takedowns a bit faster, or better or stronger, or all of them together. But if you are not a fighter, you still can learn how to improve your posture practicing movements for shoulders, chest, back and core. And the thing is, if you learn the skills, you are more likely to use it. It’s like going Marie Kondo on your workout. Kick out all the shit that doesn’t do a thing. The results won’t be just aesthetic, you will feel better.
You will be able to run for that bus. Sit at your desk at work without feeling your back in agony. Being able to carry your grocery shop without having a fit of shoulder pain.
So that’s the truth: you never stop. You do because it’s part of what you are. Like breathing, eating, and all the good “..ings” in your life. And they are all in your life for a good reason… so add training to it.
Down with the machines
Most modern gyms have loads of machines that work different parts of the body. Machines that accommodate the human body and human movement were developed in the 1960s and they have since been standard for many exercises. It’s a clever idea, using leverage and systems of pulleys, as lots of exercises could be executed by different people and with a better form. So, using machines can be a very safe and ideal way to train for those who are completely new to the gym. But be aware that they won’t give you the same direct and indirect results you can get training with free weights.
Using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and weight plates for example, will develop a stronger core, improve the proprioception (awareness of the position of the body), correct imbalances and activate more muscle fibres. So, whenever possible, go old school and use free weights to get better results.
Keep it simple
When training, keep it simple. It’s more important to understand and execute the movements that you are more likely to relate to in real life, than some crazy stuff that you see on YouTube or Instagram! I am not against those ‘poses’ that are plastered across social media, but prioritise the skills that are the foundation first.
Understand that when you are training, you are practising movements you do on a daily basis, but with a different intensity. Creating muscle tension is key to growth and awareness skills. Executing squats with proper form and adequate weights will be more beneficial as this knowledge will help to protect your knees and hip joints and strengthen your core, reducing the risk of lower back pain.
Another important thing is to learn compound movements, and execute them properly. Compound movements involve more than one joint at time, like squats (hips, kness, ankles) and chest press (shoulders, elbows), as opposed to movements like bicep curls, tricep extensions and calf raises.
Do your homework
No amount of training will do without observing a few other points that, despite being easier to control are considered the hardest ones:
Despite the variety of food in a supermarket, people always buy the same things (have you noticed how you guide your shopping by the location you remember (or assume) the items will be? That’s the “Thinking fast and slow” explanation. The brain doesn’t like to work hard. It’s food. Cookies are on the aisle 7. I remember it.
Worse, it’s the way we eat… long after we are full, we are still munching (that’s down to the size of portions and the delay between the stomach being full and the satiety feeling is communicated by the brain). Sugar, fat and salt. We want it all… together… at the same time…. now!
Discipline is key. And that requires a lot of grit.
We talk with pride in how we are able to go through our week with the minimum sleep possible. It’s like a badge of honour. We’re busy. We work long hours. We sleep when we are dead… That’s so wrong.
Our cognitive ability and body functions need the sleep. Our bodies never stop. But they need that time of less intense sensory input to “calibrate” itself. It’s like, for example, when the underground closes at night so that the engineers can get to work in order to keep the tube running in the waking hours. So, it works the same with your body.
There’s a reason why, despite all the evolution we have been through, we still need the same amount of sleep of our ancestors. And respecting that is key. (Catching up on lost sleep in the weekend doesn’t work I am afraid).
3- Drinking habits
Alcohol impairs and fattens. As simple as that. No, I am not saying that you should go teetotal, but you should consider your drinking habits. If drinking socially means having five pints a night amongst friends, you are not doing your body any favours.
4- Smoking and other vices
Smoking is terrible for you. No, no excuses. If you want a healthy body, stop inhaling poison. Other vices can be harmful too, such as social media addiction, gaming addiction, drug addiction. Everything in excess is bad. But in the case of smoking and (some drugs), even a small amount is enough to take a heavy toll on your body. So, embrace the fun of being free. Of choosing to stop because you are in control. It’s awesome!
Find Out More
Fabio is a PT and instructor at Fight City Gym. He has been in the fitness industry for 20 years and clearly knows his stuff!
Website: https://www.fitnesswithfabio.com (coming soon) https://fightcitygym.co.uk/trainer/fabio-domingues/
*Health Advice: It is advisable to consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.