The Christmas break for most is generally a time to relax. We see family, friends and take some much needed time off from work. It is however also a time when we indulge! Christmas parties in the build up to the holidays, stressful work deadlines and of course excessive food and alcohol intake can mean it's a time when our fitness goals are forgotten about!
For some people this is not a problem and they enjoy switching off from training, knowing that in the new year they can push on with the results they want to generate.
For others wanting to maintain their fitness through the Christmas period it can be very challenging. The cold, dark days often lower motivation. Higher calorific intake through poor food choices and alcohol can mean body fat levels shoot up and lean muscle mass decrease.
It's with this in mind that I thought I'd go through some simple training tips to make the most of the Xmas period and actually utilise some of those extra calories!
I am currently on holiday in Sydney so my motivation for training is higher than usual. The sunny weather, being by the beach and great food choices makes it easier to maintain momentum.
With the nice weather I have incorporated a lot of sprint work on the track into my program design so I can be outside. One of the issues with the Xmas period is gyms are often closed for a few days, limiting training opportunities and giving yourself another reason not to train. However all you need to do some decent sprint work is a field and some football boots.
So my first tip would be to introduce sprinting into your training over this period.
Christmas Day is normally when the highest amount of calories are consumed so definitely try and do a training session that day. If going to the gym is not an option I'd recommend trying to do a sprint session as early as possible in the day. As I discussed in previous articles doing this type of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can increase metabolic rate and increase insulin sensitivity meaning your body can utilise the excess intake of carbohydrate into building muscle.
If you’re new to doing HIIT I'd recommend doing no more than two sessions a week. So say over the Xmas holiday period you could fit in 4 sessions. Here is a sample workout below. If you don't have access to a track then use the length of a rugby/football pitch which should be the equivalent of 100m.
Sprint 100m, Walk 90 Secs X 9
Sprint 100m, Walk 80 Secs X 9
Sprint 100m, Walk 70 Secs X 10
Sprint 100m, Walk 60 Secs X 10
My second tip would be to change your method of weight training.
Ideally you'd want to stick to a Hypertrophy rep range of around 8-12 and have rest periods short at around 30-60 seconds using big compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, pressing and chin ups/rowing.
This type of training will place a high metabolic demand on the body, levels of lactic acid in the body will be increased. When lactic acid levels are increased then Growth Hormone should raise too which again should allow the body to utilise the extra consumed calories into building muscle.
I picked up the below workout from strength coach Charles Poliquin many years ago. He gave it the delightful name 'The Death Circuit' for its ability to kill a trainee! It is also known as peripheral heart activation training (PHA) due the the physiological effect it has on the body.
If you notice the exercises are performed in a circuit, one after the other. However it is the order of exercises which is of the most importance.
The squat exercise is predominantly a quadriceps based exercise therefore blood is forced to flow towards the lower body of the quads. From there the trainee goes into a chin up which is a upper back exercise. This is diagonally the furthest point from the quads so the blood then is forced to flow up towards the back creating high levels of lactic acid. This pattern continues with the exercises being hamstring based then finishing with chest/shoulders.
Each exercise is performed with strict tempo of a 4 second lower and a controlled 1 second lift. Ideally no pauses are taken either at the bottom or top of the lift. Take 60 seconds rest between each exercise until the sets are completed. If you are a beginner to weight training I'd say shoot for only 3 sets, if you are a more advanced trainee then attempt the full 5 sets.
I've used variants of this program successfully over the years with many clients. It is excellent for someone looking to drop body fat and increase some lean mass. Warning though, it is definitely not for the faint hearted! If completed correctly it is normal to feel very sick throughout. You should pick a weight you can only just complete 8-10 reps with. Add weight to the chin ups if you need to.
A1. Heels Elevated Barbell Back Squat
Tempo - 4010
B1. Underhand Chin-Ups
Tempo - 4010
C1. Barbell Romanian Deadlift
Tempo - 4010
D1. 60 degree Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
3- 5 Sets
Tempo - 4010
Ideally I would try both of these program's. It would work well to do them both 2 times a week. Try to have at least 1 day off in the middle of the week to let the body recover.
I hope you find them beneficial and that you have a great guilt free Christmas break!