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Training principles from the Biggest Loser

The Australian series of the Biggest Loser finished last week and the dramatic changes in weight, size, and consequently health by it's competitors is nothing short of remarkable. We look at what fitness and training principles underlie their impressive success...


biggest loser trainingWhether you watched it or not, loved it or hated it, the Biggest Loser certainly provoked a lot of interest and raised some important questions about obesity, training, and weight loss. You can certainly question it's methods and worry about the safety and consequences of such dramatic weight loss, but underlying the staggering results the contestants gained are some tried and true principles of fitness that will work for anyone!

Biggest loser training principle #1: Train with Intensity

There's little doubt that the contestants on the Biggest Loser show worked at a very high rate of intensity for their great results. Trainings with Bob and Jillian looked gruelling and they pushed everyone to their limits... and often beyond as people broke down mentally and physically throughout the show. There's an old adage in fitness "no pain no gain" and while that's not a motto to die by it does apply to your training intensity and aiming to get to a level that challenges you and hurts a bit!

So the first lesson we can learn from the Biggest Loser is that you need to train at a high intensity to achieve great results.

biggest loser push upsThe question is, how hard do you go?! ASCM guidelines recommend getting your heart rate between 65-85% of your maximum heart rate for good fitness results. This usually equates to a heart rate between 120-160 bpm for most people. Another guide is to work to the point where you are puffing - having to breathe steadily and puff means you're achieving a good rate of aerobic intensity.

Can you train too hard? Yes, you can push your intensity and heart rate too high and place too much pressure on your system. (That said, far more people have died from not exercising hard enough than those who have exercised too hard!) This is where the training approach of the Biggest Loser show are questionable and not suited for everyone. Obviously for good TV the contestants where beaten into a pulp every session, but the safety consequences of pushing obese (or even normal weight) people to their maximum are significant. For your own training we would strongly recommend keeping your intensity below 85% of maximum heart rate, and of course, consult your GP if you have concerns about your ability to exercise.

Biggest loser training principle #2: Train with Volume

Throughout the show you heard various comments about how much the contestants on the Biggest Loser were training, and they ranged from one to two or seven to eight hours a day! Wow, it's this kind of training volume that gets great results, because the more you move the more energy you burn and simply put that equals weight loss.

Now, do any of us have eight hours a day to be training?! Sure - if you dont sleep, work, or have a life! This is where the realism of the Biggest Loser format doesnt translate to normal life, and while it would be nice to do the sort of training volume the Biggest Loser people did, for most of us it's simply not possible. However that doesnt mean you give up and say it's impossible to lose weight, you just need to be aware that without such big training volume you wont get the same dramatic weight loss.

Y ou can - and should! - still use the principle of training volume in your own fitness program by trying to get as much time moving and being active as possible. It doesnt always have to be a hard training, as even a walk every day plus some harder key sessions each week will bump up your activity levels and translate into weight loss.

Also, dont underestimate the benefits of incidental exercise for adding training volume to your program. Walk to work, ride a bike, park further away, get outside at lunchtime... there are a hundred ways to move more often and it really does add up. What's more research shows people how make it a daily habit to be more active get great results because the extra activity becomes a habit, and habits often last a lifetime.

biggest loser trainingBiggest loser training principle #3: Get Mentally Tough!

I really admire the effort and dedication the contestants showed throughout the Australian series of the Biggest Loser. It was far from easy: the challenges and training were extreme, being in a foreign environment away from family cant be easy, and the pressure of national TV all combined to mean they were doing it tough! They ran through deserts, heaved a truck, scaled high poles, moved a ton of bricks, climbed endless stairs, and pushed and pushed in the gym every day.

All this effort takes a lot of mental toughness, a drive or committment not to give up, and this is what everyone needs in their training program to get great results.

How often do you take the easy option? Do you not train because it's too cold, too dark, too early, too late, or you feel too tired? Sometimes our excuses are legitimate, but a lot of the time they're not and we're taking the easy option. We all make excuses but the less we listen to them and the more we get out there and train and keep focused on what you want to achieve the better we will ultimately be.

There's no easy answer for mental toughness, but it can be as simple as getting outside, moving your body, and not making any excuses! See just do it for a no more excuses article!


To get inspired, find motivation, or ask questions about the Biggest Loser please contact us!



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