Fitness advice: Why your workout is unlikely to get you match fit – and what will

Harry Thomas
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Health has become an integral part of modern life, with more people working out than ever before.

The last decade has seen an exponential rise in the number of gyms, especially in central London. People go for all sorts of reasons: to lose weight, get fit, tone up, improve sporting performance. But the exercises they do tend to be fairly limited. Look around you next time you’re in the gym and you’ll see almost all of the movements people are doing are either ‘forward/back’ or ‘up/down’. Squats, lunges, rows, bench presses, runs, bicep curls. You get the idea.

Don’t get me wrong, this style of training works, and its something we all should be doing within our routines, especially if you’re trying to build muscle or lose weight. However, even if these are you goals, there are huge benefits to mixing things up. Many of our clients want to change their shape, but they also like to play sport. If they stick to building muscle in a forwards/backwards motion, it can hinder performance and also increase the risk of injury.

This is actually quite a radical shift in the way we think about training. For years, and to this day, we have looked at the body muscle by muscle – which ones need to be strengthened, which are fatigued, which need to be stretched – rather than looking at the body as a whole. But the body is interconnected, and people are only just waking up to the fact that there’s a lot more to getting fit than building muscle. Here are examples from sports many of us in the city like to play.


Golf is very technical, and everyone will have a slightly different swing. But which muscles are you actually working? If you pin-pointed them all and tried to train each one individually, you’d be completely lost.

We get a few golfers in our gym who say they want to train their core to improve their swing, as there’s a lot of core strength involved. So lots of trainers will start assigning crunches or planks. The thing is, the core doesn’t work in that way when we then go into a swing.

As a result, we find golfers have lots of injuries, because their bodies aren’t conditioned to deal with the force going through them. They may go to the driving range and hit 100 shots and think this is conditioning their body for a leisurely 18 holes. But on the driving range they are always going for the “perfect” swing; feet in the right position, ground always flat. The body soon gets used to this, but then going onto the golf course, everything is different. The floor will be uneven, our feet will be in a slightly different position, our hands will be in a different place on the club.

All of these tiny changes create new lines of stress, which the body doesn’t recognise.

I’d never claim I could improve your golf drive, but a good trainer could get your body used to these positions by rotating your torso, spine and shoulders, playing about with a range of different angles. The key is conditioning your body to work well in positions it’s never experienced before.


Pre-season in football usually involves lots of long distance running and sprints in a straight line. Now think about what you actually do in football: people rarely run in a straight line, they spend a lot of time running backwards and turning in all directions. Even professionals get injured on landing, which is crazy considering they’re training every day. This is because they will land in a position their body isn’t used to. So again, our strategy is to have people getting used to unorthodox positions, so they can later recognise that feeling in a sporting context.

The same goes for all kinds of sports. When people get fit for skiing, they go running or use cardio machines, which is exercising in a straight line, but on the slopes the body moves from side to side. People run on a treadmill for marathon training, when the two produce very different stresses on the body. When we go on holiday, we might go for a 10k run bare footed on the beach, when our body is totally unused to those conditions.

Our aim is to create lines of stress across the entire body, so that as a collective it will become stronger and more resilient. We have a host of “three dimensional” training exercises that we promote at No.1 Fitness, both loaded and unloaded. These can involve swinging a heavy “ViPR” tube over your head, or recreating pommel horse movements, or even adding rotations to your regular lifts.

Take note of the way your body moves throughout the day, all of the rotating, lifting and stepping around people that you probably take for granted, and then think hard about how you could get more out of your time in the gym.


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