Hypertrophy Warrior!

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‘But I don’t wanna get big’

Ladies… Do not fear the weights room! I promise you, that strength training WILL NOT make you big.

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Let’s look at what it takes in order to build substantial amounts of muscle.

  1. An intense strength programme.
    Unless you are training 6/7 days a week, having 2 hour, hard sessions twice a day and hammering the weights HARD every session, with little to no cardio (or the right kind of cardio) then building muscle is going to be a very slow process. As a female myself, I have been trying to ‘get big’ for years. I strength train 5 days a week mostly, and the majority of the time to failure… I’m yet to ‘get big’

    2. FOOD!
    You would not even believe the amount you would have to consume in order to sustain that level of training. Let alone the amount of protein intake you would need to repair the muscle and recover from your training. I’m not talking eating a little bit more chicken and adding a bit more protein and carbs to your diet. I am talking hitting 4000 calories or more PER DAY. You can not build muscle unless you are consuming a surplus in calories. Most women, in order to build muscle will need around 2500-2800 calories a day out of that you would need to eat 30% at least in protein in order to repair and recover. Let me put this into perspective for you. 30% of 2500 is 750 calories from protein, Which is just over SIX CHICKEN BREASTS, and that’s PER DAY! Without the necessary food intake for your training you will not be able to build a substantial amount of muscle. (This goes for men too)

    3. Testosterone
    To look like a man,, you have to be built like a man, and ladies… We are most definitely not. You can not build muscle without testosterone. FACT. Men with lower levels of testosterone will find it much more difficult to build muscle, so imagine how much harder it is for us. Again, here’s a little perspective for you to highlight the extreme differences in the levels of testosterone male and females have.

    Total testosterone (amount floating around at the time of a testosterone test)

    An average healthy adult male will have between 270-1070 nanograms per deciliter of blood.

    An average healthy adult fertile women will have between 15-70 nanograms per deciliter of blood.
    This is such a huge difference in testosterone levels that it literally makes it impossible for women to build muscle like men can, unless of course, you are using the supplements or steroids. You may see many female bodybuilders who look manly, have that thick neck and chiseled jaw line, (and deeper voice) this is the results of steroids, NOT picking up some dumbbells a couple of times a week.

    4. Metabolism
    Weight training increases metabolism. Going back to point number 2 and food intake. The reason you will need to be consuming all those calories is because weight training will burn more calories, therefore you need to eat more. Your body will look to your muscles for energy before anything else, as this is a more efficient way for your body to convert energy stores. So actually you can strength train and your body will be taking those gains right back from you unless your eating right.

Weight training will actually enhance your figure, add curves, help you reduce and keep off that extra fat, it will increase bone density and reduce risk of developing osteoporosis later in life, it will help reduce cholesterol, help to keep type 2 diabetes under control, increase moto nurone recruitment which will help balance and coordination, it’s a great antidepressant -releases endorphines which help boost your mood, helps you sleep better, gives you more energy and of course… makes you stronger!

Reps and sets. Do you know why you’re doing what?

The range of reps and sets you do correlates to which muscle fibre types you are targeting. They all have their place and they can all be used in conjunction with each other to reach your goals.

They are 3 types of training.

1- Endurance

2- Hypertrophy

3. Strength.

An easier way to remember this if you’re not down with the liguo is to think: Longer. Bigger. Stronger.

Endurance training means you can go on for longer.

Hypertrophy means to increase muscle size- bigger.

Strength means to get stronger… obviously.

Endurance training recruits type 1 muscle fibres, (see more info on muscle fibre types in my previous blog post about genetics)

    When endurance training you are looking to use a rep range of 12-20 and completing 2-3 sets with 30 second rest time in between them. Aim to use a weight that you can manage for the full set, but you should find it’s a struggle towards the end for the last couple of reps. If you feel like you can carry on and do another 10, then the weight isn’t heavy enough and you’re basically going to get a better workout by pouring milk into a cup of tea. This is where most women get it wrong, they do countles reps with a weight that would barely challenge a 2 year old… I should know, I have one! Men tend to go the opposite way and do too heavy a weight and are not able to complete the full reps and sets… which takes you into hypertrophy training. You need to keep the tempo at a steady speed, making sure you’re not using momentum to get the lift, bringing the weight up should be the same speed as bringing the weight down and it needs to be controlled to the very final part of the movement. If you need to use momentum to get the weight up then it’s likely that it’s too heavy for this type of training.


Hypertrophy training recruits more type 2a muscle fibres.

    The rep range you’re looking at here is 8-12, and completing 2-3 sets with around 1-2 minute rest period between sets. As with endurance training you should be choosing a weight that is challenging towards the end of the sets. If you get to rep 12 and you can still push for another few reps then this isn’t a true set and you have basically just used your warm up weight… but congratulations on that, you’re obvioulsy stonger than you think!


Strength training recruits more type 2b muscle fibres.

    The rep range for strength is between 1-6 reps, completeing 3-5 sets and resting for 3-5 minutes between sets. There is a lot of importance of rest time particularly for strength training as too short a rest time will mean the energy system this type of training requires, will not be replenished and you’ll be targetting more hypertrophy training rather than strength. While there is no doubt that hypertrophy training will build strength it focus’s more on muscle size, whereas using strength training rep and set ranges is optimal for building strength, therefore you’ll see quicker progress if getting stronger is what you’re aiming for.

Ok so that’s a basic run down of what you need to be looking at for whatever your goal may be. This doesn’t mean that when you write a plan of your own you should only stick to one type of training for your session, you can mix them up and do strength and hypertrophy training on the same muscle group in the same session.

For example if you’re looking at leg day and you want to increase strength but also want to grow size, then choose the exercises you want to use to target the legs, for instance, use a compound exercise for strength training, ie a squat or leg press, this targets several muscles (quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves) so is great for strength training, then choose an isolation exercise like leg extension which targets the quads and then use the hypertrophy training rep and set range on that.

So a simple overview of this example is this: Big compound exercises works more muscles for overall stength and the isolation exercise is used to target the muscles you want to increase in size, which for legs is usually the quads, hence why I have used this example.

If you’re trying to fathom out why a trainer has written certain things in your programme this guide should help make it a bit clearer, however if you have just read this and you feel your programme hasn’t been written to meet your goal then speak to your trainer and ask them. If they can’t tell you exactly why they have picked an exercise and what it’s doing for you then you need to find yourself a new trainer… or of course you can drop me an email and we can design a tailor made programme to get you started.

It’s genetics. No, really!

I see a lot of people discussing how easily or not they can lose fat or put on muscle.

Some people don’t believe me when I tell them I find it super easy to build muscle. Even with being a girl I can pack on muscle quicker than some of my male friends. What’s the deal with that hey?

So let’s have a look and go through some factors when it comes to building muscle. I’ll cover genetics and fat loss in another article.



Firstly and probably the easiest and simplest way to put it (but not always as straight forward as this, I will discuss that further on). Men can build muscle a lot easier than females, this is down to the testosterone levels. You need to have testosterone in order to build muscle, that’s a fact, and men have a lot more testosterone so it doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out. This is why women should never be worried about becoming bulky if they go for a couple of heavy dumbbells, or shock horror the barbell!

Here’s how extreme the testorone levels differ between both genders.

Total testosterone (amount floating around at the time of a testosterone test)

An average healthy adult male will have between 270-1070 nanograms per deciliter of blood.

An average healthy adult fertile women will have between 15-70 nanograms per deciliter of blood.

This is such an extreme difference, which is why women can’t build muscle as quick as men. You may have seen women looking bulky if you have ever had a glimpse of a female bodybuilder, more factors… steroids being one, and also take into account how long that person has been training, how much time, effort, dedication and commitment they have had to put into contest prep with training and their diet, this really makes the muscles pop, they are usually dehydrated as well in order to make the muscles that more defined ready for the big day. Female bodybuilders or figure competitors also have a body fat percentage which is incredibly hard to get down to and also impossible to maintain. They DO NOT look like that all year round.

I actually have a higher level of testosterone for a female due to a hormone imbalance I have, which goes in my favour when it comes to building muscle when I compare it with my female friends.

Ok now for the next factor.

Muscle fibre types.

There are 3 types of muscle fibres. Type 1, Type 2a and Type 2b. You are born with a certain amount of these fibres, you can not change the amount of muscle fibre types you’re born with. Some people will have more Type 1, some will have more Type 2a and some will have more Type 2b, whatever the combination, let me tell you, it ain’t gonna change.

Let’s look at each muscle fibre type and understand what they do.

Type 1 (slow twitch)

These muscle fibres are used when endurance training, they rely on oxygen as an energy source. They contract slowly and don’t fatigue. These are the muscles you use every day when standing, holding yourself up, walking and general day to day activities, they are also the muscle fibres that are recruited when long distance running, cycling and swimming etc.

Type 2a (fast twitch)

These muscle fibres are used for speed and strength, they use both aerobic (oxygen) and anaerobic (no oxygen) energy sources. Because these fibres aren’t as reliant on oxygen as type 1 fibres they will fatigue quicker due to the decreased amount of blood flow going to them. These fibres are active when completing moderate weight training (8-12 reps) fast running events such as 400 meters, strength and power type activities. 

Type 2b (fast twitch)

These muscle fibres are also used for strength, speed and power. They contract very quickly to create forceful movements, these muscles use an anaerobic energy source so they fatigue very quickly. These muscle fibres will be recruited when performing sprints, heavy weight training (1-3 reps) and powerlifting activities.

Depending on what muscle fibre types you have the majority of, will depend what kind of training you find easiest. Believe it not you can actually have a DNA test which will tells you. So if you have a large number of type 1 fibres and not a lot of type 2 then you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll never be a Hussain Bolt or winning any medals for sprinting. The same goes for the other way around, you’re not going to be the next Mohamad Farah unless you were born with a majority of type 1 fibres. Although this definitely doesn’t stop you from doing all types of training, it just means that your body and genetics are better suited to particular types of training.

My high testosterone level (in the higher range for a female) and my genetics, mean that building muscle comes so much easier to me than a lot of other women. The same goes for men too, if you have a very low testosterone level and your DNA means more type 1 muscle fibres then you’re going to find building muscle much more difficult. It can get very very frustrating, that teamed with a fast metabolism will mean a serious diet overhaul and eating your weight in your required macros.

If you’re a male and you are struggling to build muscle then the first thing you need to look at is your testosterone level, you can buy legal testosterone boosters in your high street supplement stores, and you should also consider re-evaluating your diet too, things like soy products have a higher level of the female hormone oestrogen, which means that will have an effect on your testosterone levels, as will milk too. Weightlifting actually increases testosterone levels so at least your training will be going in your favour. Another thing to look at is your stress levels, cortisol is the stress hormone and if that’s high then that too will have a negative impact on your testosterone levels.Vitamin and mineral deficiencies also impact our hormone levels so make sure you’re getting enough by taking vitamin and mineral supplements. Insulin also impacts your other hormone levels, so make sure your diet is good and you’re laying off the processed foods, high in refined sugar and very little nutritional value. SEX is an awesome way to increase testosterone levels too, the more you have the better regulated your testosterone levels will become.

So bottom line is, eat good food, lift heavy stuff, get rid of the stresses in your life and have more sex! Doesn’t sound too bad bad to me!

When it’s time to friendship dump your gym partner.

When you embark on a new journey to reach a goal you have set, you want to see results yes?

A scenario that I encountered the other day whilst discussing goals and exercises with a couple of gym users who had come together, left me a bit annoyed.

These 2 poeple had come to the gym together, both wanted to build strength but one of them was more to target an onld injury and the other was for all over strength. Great! Right up my street, they had come to the right person.

I started teaching squats to the girl who was interested in building all over strength, showing her correct form, depth etc. I then handed her a 10kg barbell so she could feel the diffence in the centre of balance whilst holding the weight across her shoulders. Great, her from was really good and she listened to my instruction really well and seemed to pick it up quickly. So what’s the problem with this? Her gym partner told her that she should ditch the weight and build up to it. Another exercise this happened with was with the polymetric box, targeting glutes and quads I showed her how to use the step to really challenge these areas, and once she got used to the movement to grab a couple of dumbbells and progress that way. The gym partner, pointed at the aerobic stepper and told her to start on that and build up to the polymetric box. I could see a pattern emerging here.

Firstly, this girl was a fit and able bodied human being, capeable of lowering herself onto a chair or sofa to sit down using just her body weight as a load, or even holding a cup of tea or some books or even a bag! Strangely similar to a squat is it not? She was also completely capeable of walking up the flight of stairs to get to the top floor gym, similar to several steps on the aerobic stepper.

So what’s my point?

Why would you start off at a level that is way below your capeablity when you are there to progress and make changes to yourself physically? By starting on an aerobic stepper instead of a polymetric box takes no more effort than walking up a flight of stairs that you know you can already do with ease. By starting off too easy you are setting yourself up for failure. And why? Because all motivation will go out of the window when you don’t see results. If you’re not getting results then you’re not going to stick at it. In order to progress you need to challenge yourself, if you don’t then what’s the point?

A lot of people I see in and around the gyms I go to are at a plateau. They’ve been doing the same thing for months sometimes and not added any weight, maybe they’ve been scared to add any weight in case it’s too hard. Well guess what? It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy we would all be in great shape and have bodies to die for.

By not progressing your routine you will never be better, and that’s kind of the point of the game! If you have people who are telling you not to try something in case it’s too hard then be firm and tell them you WANT to go up a level. Most of us, especially new gym users, have little or no confidence when it comes to increasing weight when performing load bearing exercises but it is crucial to your progress and to reach your goals.

And if you’re the one telling your friend that they should do something thats easier… find someone else to train with, go hard or go home.

So you want to get strong?

Where do I start!

There is an increasing number of people whose goal is to get stong, to be strong. This is my area of expertise and the main area that I specialise in with my work and my own training.


There are a lot of factors that you need to take into account if you want to get strong. You have GOT to work hard. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was Arnold Schwarzenegger. You will not be exercising, you will be training and you need to be willing to commit to your routine. Although you may not be training to reach athlete levels you still need to be 100% dedicated to what it is you are seeking to achieve. There are absolutely no shortcuts. You will be sore, you will be wake up some days and ask why you’re even doing it and wonder if it’s even worth it. But it is…I promise.

If you’ve never lifted before you’ll notice you will get some awesome newbie gains, and initially your strength will increase fairly quickly in the beginning. This is great to keep you motivated when you start out, but it’s important to realise that once the newbie gains have appeared, after that it’s going to slow right down and you’ll be lucky to add a another 2-3kg for the smaller muscle groups every couple of months.

You also need to think about why you want to get strong. Do you want to be able to utilize your new strength in everyday activities? If that’s the case then you need to look at endurance training methods as well as strength training, and also functional fitness. Do you want to be more aesthetically strong, have a strong physique? Then you may need to go down the bodybuilding route of training with lot’s of isolation exercises.

Do you want to get strong for something in particular? Maybe you go climbing, which will mean a lot of focus on upper body strength. I ride motorbikes and a few ladies I know felt they needed to get stronger to be able to feel more comfortable on their bigger, heavier bikes. In which case, you want to focus heavily on really making your core strength priority.

It’s not always as simple as getting strong. When strength training you’re going to be increasing the tightness in your muscles, this will be even more so when isolating muscles, this will eventually, significantly impact on your range of motion, which means poor flexibility. So you should be looking at including a really good stretching and foam rolling routine into your training too, stretch and foam roll between sets and after your session, even dedicate half an hour a day to yoga or Pilates.

Another thing you need to take into account is nutrition. Without the correct calorie intake you might as well give up because it’ll be a long road to nowhere. To build muscle you need to fuel yourself accordingly. If you’re not eating enough calories in the right macros then you’ll find it incredibly difficult reaching your goals, and it’s going to be a very frustrating time. You need to be in a calorie surplus to keep up with the demand of your training and the constant depletion of energy within your body and your muscle stores, carbs play a big factor here. Every time you put your body through a grueling strength training session you are depleting your muscles of glycogen stores (energy), which need to be replenished, if you fail to replenish this accordingly and with appropriate protein intake then you’re going to end up making no progress. remembering a good amount of protein is imperative to muscle repair and growth.

Do you still want to get strong? Work out which route you want to go down first and then source the correct methods to get you there.














Let’s talk about supps baby!

Protein this, protein that, protein pancakes, protein shakes, casein, whey, isolate! WHAT THE F?

The supplement market is completely flooded, there are some great products out there but there are also some very very bad ones.


Here is a simple guide to which protein is right for you and when.

Let’s look at whey isolate and whey concentrate.

Both are fast digesting, which means these are great to have for a post-workout shake.

Whey concentrate is purer than isolate. Concentrate is around 92% protein while isolate is around 80%. This usually means that buying whey concentrate will have a slightly higher price tag than the whey isolate, but both are equally as good. If you’re looking for the BEST post-workout shake then go for whey concentrate, but to be honest you’re not going to notice a huge difference if any at all. These usually come in all sorts of amazing flavours. I always make sure I have vanilla flavour because its great in pancakes and mixed with yogurt. There are a lot of things you can make with protein, I’ll cover some of these at a later date.

The next one we are going to talk about it casein, now this is a slow digesting protein which means it is ideal to have before bed, or as an evening snack, the protein digests slowly throughout the night which keeps your muscles absorbing it while you’re asleep and not taking your regular meals.

You’re looking at around 100 calories for a protein shake, however, this brings me to my next protein product. Mass gainers. Now mass gainers have an extremely high calorie content, some being 1500 calories per serving, that is massive, and you might think it’s great for bulking and increasing weight. The issue is they very rarely hold many nutrients and most of the calories are just sugars. If you just stuck to a normal whey protein powder and ate the extra calories from food you will be doing much more than just feeding your body empty calories. The best advice I could give you, is to ditch the mass gainers and eat more, lots more! Mass gainers often come with a hefty price tag too.

Diet whey. Now while these are pretty much the same as your isolate and concentrate whey proteins you may find that they contain a fat burner too, but not all of them so check the label. Sometimes they are given the name ‘diet’ whey, put in fancy packaging and stuck on a shelf at almost double the price and occasionally may have a few less carbs in them, but certainly not enough to warrant the hefty price tag.

Hemp protein powder. This protein is made from hemp seeds and is great for vegans and vegetarians and is also gluten-free, although it’s usually unflavored and offers slightly fewer grams of protein per serving.

Lastly we have soy protein. This is hugely controversial, while it’s still a protein there are studies that suggest soy alters the hormone balance, decreasing testosterone (which is a huge muscle-building factor) and increasing estrogen, the female hormone. although soy protein generally has a higher protein content of around 27g per serving.

So those are the ins and outs of knowing the protein powder basics. There are many other factors to take in, like amino acids, however I’ll leave that for a more in depth discussion.

So whey protein for pre and post workout, casein before bed. Hemp and soy for vegans and vegetarians and those with more particular dietary requirements such as gluten intolerant or lactose intolerant.