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Your health, strength and fitness questions answered.

(77 Posts)
leonferao Tue 13-Aug-13 12:11:54

Hi Guys

I recently became a new parent (23rd of July) and have been reading through the site for the last 10 months or so, which I must say has been very informative and helpful. I have found myself “ghosting” around the site in a bit of a panic attempting to absorb as much information as possible, so that I was as prepared as I could be for the baby coming.

One thing that I found while looking/reading through the forum was that there was a lack of advice and support for health, fitness (strength included) and wellbeing and given that fact, I would like to help out if possible.

At 31 years of age I have been in the health and fitness industry as a personal trainer, kettlebell coach, strength and conditioning coach, as well as running my own gym and Crossfit facility in Newcastle for the last 6 years now. I have been active in the fitness industry for almost the last 14 years now, so if you have any questions you would like to ask, I am happy to help. Whether it be diet, fitness, weight/fat loss, or anything even remotely related, just pop a question up and I will respond appropriately.

Between running my gym, working a day job as a marketing advisor, looking after a new born and fitting in my own training my time is sparse, so it could take a day or two before I manage to reply, but be patient and I will come back to with an answer.

My name is Leon and I hope I can offer you some additional value here on the forum.


IBlameThePenguins Tue 13-Aug-13 17:12:34

Hi Leon. i had a C-section 4.5 months ago. Could you recommend some exercises that are gentle but effective for the old tummy muscles (or lack of!) I have lost 1.5 stone, but need to shift the same again & work on making everything less wobbly, but am anxious not to do any damage to the newly repaired muscles!

Thanks in advance xx

JohnSnowsTie Tue 13-Aug-13 17:51:48

Hi Leon, as per various YouTube vids I'm doing squats. Feeling them massively in my thighs, but not so much in my backside - am I doing them wrong? I'm going as low as I can, leaning in, back straight, feet shoulder width apart...

Purple2012 Tue 13-Aug-13 17:57:33

Hi Leon.

How lovely of you to offer to help.

I am in the process of losing weight and getting fit. I've gone from struggling to run for a minute to being able to run for over half an hour. I have no problems with cardio. I am also doing weights for strength for a specific fitness test and happy I know what I am doing with that.

The problem I have is toning, specifically stomach thighs and hips. Will I realistically ever be able to have a flat stomach? And will doing sit ups be enough or will I have to do other things to get the elusive flat stomach?

elliemummaroos Tue 13-Aug-13 23:25:02

Hi Leon,

I have just started the couch to 5k running programme (finished week 2) but I'm feeling like my foot rolls when I run?! Now I've been running slightly longer I'm really aware of it and could feel the muscles around my foot/ankle tightening because of the way my foot rolled (if that makes any sense?!). I'm planning to go to a running shop to get new trainers but that won't be for a couple of weeks and I'm scared I'm going to injure myself before then! Would trainers really make that much difference or is it a technique problem? Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

Ellie xXx

drowninginlaundry Wed 14-Aug-13 06:37:35

Hi! Yay crossfit! (Doing my Level 1 next month)

Paleo or not? I did it for a few months and it made a noticeable difference in my training, but I was struggling to get the calories in when training 3-4 times per week. I have now lapsed but can't tell if it has made a difference, I have changed boxes, different programming. Some people swear by it, friends in Scandinavia ignore it and eat dairy and sensible grain and still hit PR after PR..

leonferao Wed 14-Aug-13 09:36:23


Great questions already, I will get back to you all in a short while.

First up, IBlameThePenguins

My sister had a C-section 6 month's ago. There were some complications but fortunately mother and baby are both fit and well and were at the time too. With that said, we started doing gentle abdominal work with her about 6 weeks back and she also started swinging light kettlebells (6 & 8kg) with a focus on intra-abdominal activation (bracing the full trunk).

You have 3 goals here really, one is to lose weight/fat, one is to tone up and the other is to strengthen the abdominal wall after the C-section.

For the first goal I would recommend a paleo style diet, which you can read plenty about online, but if you have any questions about what to eat and when, of course I am happy to help you with that. What does you current diet look like on a day to day basis?

The second goal is to tone up... The toning effect is achieved by muscular growth/increased density or hypertrophy of the muscles under the skin. In order to achieve that toned look you need to couple a good diet with a sound basic strength program. Compound lifts instead of body parts work best and it is also best to progressively increase the weight as your body adapts, however, form should always come first, so finding a good coach who can help you is always best. Alternatively, you can start out with basic kettlebell drills from home. A great KB DVD for women is Maureen Martone's kettlebells for women.

The third and most important goal is the strengthening of the abdominal wall. The best tool that you can use from home for this is the abmat, which you can see here with the exercise section here Remember to take it light to start out as you will feel your midsection with as little as only 30 reps, but starting out with low volume and working up to 100 reps over the course of 6 weeks or so (daily baby steps). Once you have developed strength and are able to hit those numbers without issue, I would progress into plank variations, which are also fantastic for core development and can be done anywhere at any time.

I hope this helps.


(Always remember to consult a doctor before embarking on any fitness regime)

leonferao Wed 14-Aug-13 09:47:53

Hi JohnSnowsTie

It sounds to me like you're doing the high bar style squat. We use this style of squat to carry over into Olympic weightlifting and athletic movement, though due to the back angle, it becomes a more quad dominant exercise.

If you want a squat that targets the glutes more then you should go with the bodyweight box like this one here in addition to the box squat you can add in some walking lunges (big stride) and some Romanian deadlifts which are GRRRREAT for the glutes. Here is a great article on the RDL by Justin Lascek over at 70's big (ignore the name, the movements do not make women big)


(Always remember to consult a doctor before embarking on any fitness regime)

leonferao Wed 14-Aug-13 09:57:39

Hi Purple2012

Sounds like you've made some vast improvements in cardio since the birth!

In short, unfortunately not no. Sit-ups will not be enough though they will help in the very early stages, you really need to start doing compound movements with a barbell, which may sound scary, but it is precisely what you need in order to reduce fat all over, increase muscular tone and flatten that stomach area. If I had to recommend one book/dvd that could help you with home training specifically for this, it would have to be Pavel Tsatsouline's "Power to the People". It will teach you how to deadlift properly and will also give you several program templates. Again, if possible it would be best for you to attend a gym with a coach who can help in this area.

Diet is a major part of this process too, in fact, about 70% + of your efforts should be in the kitchen. Can you let me know what a typical day's diet is?

(Always remember to consult a doctor before embarking on any fitness regime)

leonferao Wed 14-Aug-13 10:00:04

Hi Ellie

That makes perfect sense and trainers, if in bad nick, or if they do not have the correct insole for your feet will make a big difference. Sounds like you over-pronate considerably which is tightening your calves, Achilles tendons and ligaments.

Ankle mobility drills are your best friend right now. Do you have a foam roller?


leonferao Wed 14-Aug-13 10:05:54

Hi drowninginlaundry

I do Brazilian jiujitsu and I am also considered a top tier lifter. At a body weight of 93kg I back squat 248, deadlift 265 snatch 115 and clean 150.

For me, strict paleo doesn't provide me with nearly enough calories, so I eat mostly paleo. My meals are all based around protein, then veggies, fat and some starch. Where most people can get away with strict paleo, I also need to take on board some dairy too, like eggs, though I do tend to stay away from milk.

Ultimately, for you, performance should dictate your nutrition. If your weights aren't going up, you're feeling fatigued and are struggling to recover between training sessions then you need to add in more protein and fat.

Where do you train out of, what is the programming like and what are your benchmark numbers for strength? Also, to put those numbers into perspective, can you let me know what your bodyweight is?

Good luck with the L1, where is it going to be held?


JohnSnowsTie Wed 14-Aug-13 17:07:25

Thanks Leon, will amend my technique!

The other thing I'm doing is tricep dips, increasing the amount every day.

Will they be less effective if I split them into sets throughout the day, as opposed to doing them all at once? I find them really hard!

Purple2012 Wed 14-Aug-13 17:59:12

Thanks for your reply Leon.

I am calorie counting at the moment, more so I get enough calories in rather than too much.

A typical day is

Breakfast - porridge made with water and no sugar.
Lunch - sandwich, usually low fat cheese, a pack of low fat crisps
Tea - pasta, rice or quorn with veg
Snacks - rice cakes and carrat and cucumber sticks
If I need to eat more I will have a cereal bar.

I am vegetarian so my choices are a bit limited. I am going to try to start eating meat so I can have more choice. I have just over a stone to lose before I get to the top of my healthy weight. At the moment I don't feel ready to change my diet. It would be too much in one go. I need to calorie count until I get in the healthy weight range, then I feel I can risk changing my diet as at the moment this is working for me.

Also today I Increased my running time by 13 minutes and did 45 minutes continuous running on a 1.5% incline.

greeneyed Thu 15-Aug-13 07:32:41

Hi leon great contributions thanks! Wonder if you can help me with this.

Been seeing PT for 5 weeks, never trained before, doing two sessions a week. He has me doing piston squats which I find incredible difficult, use TRX rolls for assistance, still really struggle to get up. I think this is too much for me and worry about injury ( very sore knee this morning) But I don't want to tell him how to do his job or wimp out. What's your thoughts on Piston Squats for novice. Can do normal squats and dead lift with 25 kilos ( weakling)

Thank you in advance for any thoughts smile

leonferao Thu 15-Aug-13 15:25:02

Hi Purple2012

diet is the hardest thing for people to change. One of my early mentors used to say "getting people to change their diet is as difficult as getting somebody to change their religion"

Unfortunately, due to heavy marketing and a misunderstanding of healthy diets, fat has been given the bad wrap, when it is actually sugar that is the problem. When losing weight the last thing people would eat is chocolate and sweets, because we know that sugar is bad for you. However, worldwide there is now the common misconception that fat makes you fat. If you look closely into the ingredients that make up "low fat" or "fat free" products you will see that they're high in sugar and are counterproductive to your goals.

In addition, starches like porridge, bread, cereal & crisps etc are broken down by your digestive system and converted into glycogen, which is basically sugar, and this leans to stubborn fat cells. It is the main reason why when counting calories and using these foods in a staple diet that you will lose a few pounds and then struggle to lose more and reach your ideal weight.

With that said, I do completely agree that changing a diet in one fell swoop is a bit much to ask. So I would say just start adding a little meat into you diet and see how you feel with that new addition.

MASSIVE Well done on your improved running, keep that up and you will soon be doing a half marathon!

Here's a little video I like to show my new guys when working with them on nutrition... it's fun yet very informative.

And here are a couple of articles about starch and sugar

leonferao Thu 15-Aug-13 15:28:45

Hi Greeneyed

Do you mean pistol squats aka one-legged squats?

If so, then I/we at our gym NEVER have our beginners do them. You need to gain consistency, proficiency and strength in the basic full range of motion squat first (crease of hips below the top of the knee at the very least but more is better)

The pistol squat is a more advanced movement. If he thinks that you have a weakness on one side, there are far safer methods to address that issue.

Can you take a video of what he has you doing ? the sore knee will be down to mechanics...


iloveweetos Thu 15-Aug-13 15:33:13

Hi Leon,

Great advice so far

Im 6 weeks pregnant and want to start exercising and im worried about breathing during childbirth?

What can i do fitness wise to bring it up a little? What should i avoid?

Thank you

Greeneyed Thu 15-Aug-13 15:41:28

leon thank you yes that's it and I Do have one leg much stronger than the other, bizarrely though it's the knee in the stronger leg that's hurting. I don't go all the way down in the standard squat yet. We do step ups as well which are also hard but more doable. I'll tell him next week I'm concerned about it. Thanks again

IBlameThePenguins Thu 15-Aug-13 15:48:05

Wow! Thanks so much for your detailed reply. I like breaking it down into 3 separate goals... it seems less daunting if that makes sense!?

I am eating a low care diet at the moment. I have read that low care diet& paleo are very similar. Is this true? A typical day for me at the moment would be;

Breakfast: a bowl of Greek yogurt with half a teaspoon of honey & a huge glass of water

Lunch: leafy salad with chicken/tuna

Dinner: chicken & veggies stir fried or bolognaise sauce with cabbage or lettuce.

I try to drink at least 3 litres of water a day and have limited my -previously very excessive- tea drinking to 2 cups a day. I try not to snack & if I feel the need for a treat i have some very dark choc.

I have been eating this way for about 3 months (with a few blips !) and am definitely seeing results. Does it sound ok? or should I add some tweaks?

Thanks so much for the exercise advice. I will definitely check out that DVD. Do you have any advice for picking a good coach?

Thanks again. I really appreciate your time! grin

IBlameThePenguins Thu 15-Aug-13 15:49:42

*carb, not care!!... bloody phone!!!

daisychicken Thu 15-Aug-13 16:02:47

Hi Leon, thanks for offering advice - I'd appreciate some!

I have Fibromyalgia (also hypermobile and have problems with SPD since pregnancies (last one 9yrs ago)). Up until 2 years ago I kept fit gardening - I had 2 allotments and my garden and was there every day - plus walking the dog. Unfortunately 2 1/2 years ago, my Fibro went into overdrive and I've had to stop completely.

I low carb to keep my weight down but I'm very aware that I am totally unfit and that bothers me. I try and walk the dog once a day - just a 5 minute walk and have planned with my GP that over the next few months, that I will try and increase that to two 5 minute walks a day.

I'd like to try and tone up my tummy muscles as well as slowly build my stamina up but I'm totally unsure how to do this in regards to not overworking myself (eg just a few minutes light weeding in the garden puts me in bed for a few days & some days I struggle to walk).

Do you have any suggestions for light exercises that I can do at home - starting off with just a couple a day and then building up?

Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Purple2012 Thu 15-Aug-13 18:27:41

Hi Leon

Thanks for the links. I lost weight years ago calorie counting and exercising but then had a bad fall and couldn't exercise. I lost my way then and the weight slowly went back on.

For the moment I am afraid to not calorie count as I know it works for me. I am slowly going to reduce the
processed food and bread etc and start increasing real food. If I did it all in one go it would be overwhelming. Im confident that with the calorie counting and exerciseI can gget to my healthy weight range. Hopefully then I will be more confident changing my diet a bit more.

drowninginlaundry Fri 16-Aug-13 06:49:08

Cheers Leon,
I am 67 kg, deadlift 105, snatch 40kg, clean 65. My recovery was an issue, and I was training at a gym that was not an affiliate and frankly coaching was random at best, irresponsible at worst. We did a lot of volume, never ending chippers and heroes with a lot of pressure to do these Rx'd. I have now moved to an affiliate and it's been life changing, I am making progress again. I am in Devon, the L1 is in Belfast.

leonferao Fri 16-Aug-13 10:20:04

Hi I love Weetos

At our gym when we work with pregnant ladies we have them do strength training. Usually sets of 5 with perfect form and typically only a few movements. Most recently we have used the deadlift, Press/Push Press, Romanian Deadlift, bodyweight squats, ring rows, side planks, banded work, 20inch step ups and some bear crawls as well.

For the conditioning, we have kept the intensity low, have focussed massively on form and the ability to move smoothly for between 10-12 mins tops. Workouts have often been a blend of one or two movements from above, coupled with a row, or a weighted walk... in the early days we have had the girls carry medicine balls, which we have been told have worked quite well.

With all of this being said, the girls who I have coached while pregnant, were all members of our gym prior, so we were well aware of their abilities and their limits beforehand, which made it easy for us to scale everything right back.

have you been training prior to the pregnancy and if so, what were you doing exactly ?

leonferao Fri 16-Aug-13 10:25:03

Hi Greeneyed

He shouldn't be having you do partial reps. The joints are designed to go through a full range of motion and without that, we begin to suffer mobility issues which end up being a cause for the loss of independence later in life.

Look at a baby when they squat down, that is the joint mobility we are intended to have, then if you compare that mobility with the tribes men and women of today, you will see that us western folk have gotten lazy.

Provided there are no mobility issues a full squat should be employed. If there are mobility issues they should be addressed and the squat should be avoided until then.

If you were up in Newcastle, I could teach you how to do it properly... If I can find the time at some point I might set up a video page for you guys so you can train safely at home.

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