5 Best Ways to Focus Your Mind

Benjamin J Marshall

Here are my 5 best ways to focus your mind to allow you to achieve your goals 

Many people really struggle to focus on a project. Either they will put it off or procrastinate with almost anything else possible. Sadly most of our lives now revolve around paperwork be it physical or online, this is true for studies, applications, work or even filling out tax forms. These tend to be tedious and therefore hard to focus on. However these techniques work for more than just paper so embrace them into any area where you want to concentrate.

Outcome / reward

Really ask yourself why you are doing this? What is the outcome? Focusing on the outcome of a particular activity can make you realise the value in it. The actual activity might not be interesting or exciting but the reward might be extremely valuable to you. Think about studying for a university test. The study might not be particularly engaging however getting your degree is priceless to most people.

So ask yourself is this really important to you… The answer should be yes otherwise you really need to think about why are you spending your time doing it? So let us take it that, Yes this is important. If it is important to you then you are the only one losing out by not completing it.

Time frame

The realisation that there is a timeframe on something is a huge way to boost motivation and stay focused.

If you have a project that needs to be done in a week then the realisation that right this very second is the longest time till its due is a powerful way of making use your time efficiently.

You will never have more time than you do right now.

No one likes the idea of wasting time and normally if you sit down and put your mind to something you can complete it in a much shorter amount of time and in a more effective way. Otherwise you spend the day on what should have been an hour job.

I don’t have time to waste like this so for me time frame is the biggest motivator.

Music

If you are really finding it hard to stay focused on something without the outside world distracting you then use music to direct your attention. Choose something instrumental, so that you don’t get distracted by the lyrics and then either have something peaceful to drown out the external noise or use something motivational to keep your attention. YouTube is full of compilations of music. Have a search and you will find some brilliant things. (Instrumental Motivation, most inspiring instrumental music)

…coffee ?

Does this one even need explaining?

I don’t like the idea of reliance on stimulants or products to achieve however when you have been concentrating for a long time sometimes a little caffeine hit can help out.

If you drink coffee a lot then one cup probably doesn’t affect you too much. I would advise you to try and limit your coffee intake as much as possible so that when you do “need “ a coffee it is more effective.

So those are my 5 best ways to focus. They work really well for me so give them try and let me know how you stay focused. Do you set rewards for accomplishments or just leave everything till the last minute and panic.

Ben

5 Biggest Mistakes that Hinder Training

benjamin j marshall 

The 5 biggest mistakes that will hinder your training

There are a number of factors which can hinder training, this can be the case for people just starting out or those who have been training for a little while but haven’t seen an improvement.

These are my 5 biggest mistakes which will stop you from improving

Not eating enough

Lifting too much weight

Bad form

Using the wrong exercises

Not recovering enough (drinking enough, sleeping, intervals between muscle groups)

Let us break these down and explain how they occur and how to fix them


Not eating enough

A lot of people jump into a routine and want to build lots of muscle but also have a six pack, and then become disheartened when they don’t see any improvements. The problem here is diet, to build muscle you have to be in a caloric surplus (positive energy balance) meaning you are taking in more calories than you are expending though exercise and living. The problem is people are scared to go into a calorific surplus as they are worried that they will gain fat.

Many people actual eat less when they start a gym program in the hope they will get a six pack faster, and then get disheartened when they cannot progress with weights or they see no visual change in the mirror.

The problem is it causes a state of awkward middle ground where individuals don’t want to eat more as they don’t want to gain fat, however also are scared to cut calories to lean down as they are scared to halt progress in the gym.

My advice here would be committing to a goal, learn about nutrition and find out how to achieve that goal in the most precise way possible.

Give yourself a target of gaining some muscle, work out what your caloric needs are and then slowly increase them until you are able to see progression in the gym.

Lifting too much weight

Although this might sound silly but actually this can be something that is hindering your progression. A lot of people train with their ego and this causes them to use far too much weight than they need causing them to cheat themselves out of reps and never actually do enough work to stimulate the muscle.

Really think about your body when you are exercising, think about how much contraction you are getting and how much stretch in the muscle. If you are not feeling a full contraction or a big enough stretch chances are that the weight is too heavy and you are limiting your range of motion to compromise. If this is the case lower the weight and you will find you get a much better work out.

Bad form

This is normally the result of lifting too much weight as outlined above but it is not always the case. Sometimes people do not use the correct technique to complete the movement. This may sound like I am just being picky however there are problems associated with bad form. Firstly it can lead to serious injury, especially when combined with too much weight. You might strain, pull or even tear a muscle or permanently damage yourself if you do not use correct form. The other problem that effects your progression is that by not utilising correct form one ends up limiting the range of motion or just cheating and using momentum to do the work for you.

If you are having to swing your whole body to bicep curl 16kg (35lbs) then you’re not using correct form and actually the movement of your body and shoulder will take most of the weight of your bicep. Where as if you lower the weight keep your elbow tight to you side and pulled back then you can squeeze the bicep and get a much better contraction.

Use the mirrors in the gym to check your form, it might be seem egotistical to sit in front of the mirror but these are what they are actually meant to be used for.

Using the wrong exercises

Sometimes people focus on the wrong exercises to achieve their desired outcome. This is especially true for people just starting off, they see complicated exercise routines in magazines or specialist variations to “really target” a specific muscle group. They then end up trying to replicate this and forget they have to focus on building a strong base.

Before you try adding in any isolation exercises you should first ensure that you are incorporating compound exercises as the basis for all your workouts. Compound movements are those that use more than one muscle such as squat, dead lift, bench press, pull up and overhead press. These exercises alone can build a very impressive physique and should make up the first exercises of your work out. From there you can expand if needed but the focus should be on these first.

Not recovering enough (drinking enough, sleeping, intervals between muscle groups)

Finally you might have everything absolutely dialed in on your nutrition, you have a solid workout routine and your technique is good, however you still struggle to see improvements. One of the biggest mistakes people make is they think that you grow in the gym, this is not true. You break down the muscle in the gym and you repair and grow when you eat the correct food and sleep to allow repair.

Consider your workout routine, do you have the same body splits very close together never letting it fully recover and grow? Are you ensuring that you are drinking enough water in the day to properly regulate your system and finally are you getting enough sleep at night? If you’re up all night partying then I can guarantee that you are not.

If you are finding that you are not getting the results you think you should be then consider all these points. It might be that one or more of these are stopping you from getting the most out of the time you put into the gym.

Do your research into nutrition, workout splits and form, make sure you really have all these things in check.

Finally remember that it does take time to create a physique. Be patient and consistent and you will see results.

Ben

Do Fat Burners Really Work?

Benjamin J Marshall

Fat burners are abundant in fitness media currently. So I get asked a lot what I think about them and more importantly, do they actually work? So, here are my thoughts:

Fat burners have turned into a controversial topic, with marketing and advertising making them probably the second most known supplement to the general public, after protein. Some will argue that they do nothing and others believe that they are the real secret to getting lean.


So what are fat burners?

A fat burner is most commonly found in a pill form and normally suggested by suppliers to be taken once upon waking and once before exercise, or in the early afternoon. The main ingredient of fat burners is caffeine. Some products are purely caffeine, whereas others contain other ingredients such as L-carnitine, Raspberry Ketones and Green Tea. Indeed, a singular tablet can contain up to 200mg of caffeine, whereas in comparison a Red Bull or regular coffee is about 80mg. Let’s examine this; most fat burners will have a description on the back of the bottle claiming the thermogenic effect of their product. Although some studies have shown that caffeine, as well as L-carnitine, do have some thermogenic effects on the body, the registered results are so small it really is negligible in the grand scheme of things.

Most fat burners say something similar to “to obtain maximum effects use in conjunction with a diet regime.” This is due to the fact that fat burners themselves don’t actually “burn fat” (this is the dirty little secret)… Fundamentally it is the calorific deficit which causes the fat loss. Your body burns fat when it has to rely on its internal fat stores for energy, as there is a negative energy balance (aka. You are taking in less energy than you use). The fat burners there might make sustaining the diet easier by giving you a caffeine boost to help you get through the day, with a lack of incoming energy in the form of calories.

There is also the argument that this caffeine causes you to burn more calories throughout the day – by being slightly more energetic, ‘fidgeting’. Although this is such a small proportion of calories it is barely worth registering. However, the other calories you burn might be in the gym, where you push yourself through the last few reps because you have the caffeine boost.

It is important to remember that psychological and mental factors can be applied here in the form of placebo. Many people will think that as they are taking a fat burner and spending money on it, that they should also stick to their diet to make sure it works… now, although the logic is backwards and the priority should be on the diet, the outcome will effectively be the same.

Therefore, sticking to a diet (calorific deficit) will cause you to lose weight.


Conclusion:

Do they melt away fat? – No

Do the tablets alone cause fat loss?– a tiny, tiny amount perhaps, but the actual fat loss comes from the calorific deficit you put yourself in whilst on a diet or exercising

Do they work to give you energy when consuming low calories? – Yes, due to the high caffeine content.

So why do people take them?

The appeal of fat burners is the idea that just by taking a pill you will magically melt away body fat. This plays into the instant reward mentality of the society in which we now live: working out is hard, time consuming and difficult to stick to. Thus, many people will blindly follow the notion that they can look like a fitness model just by taking a single pill. Sadly this is not the case. And it is this vulnerability and lack of proper knowledge that some supplement companies will exploit.

I am a true believer of making sure that your everyday diet should provide everything that you need in terms of nutrition and supplements should be exactly that; supplementary to your diet. Therefore used for convenience (like a protein shake) or ease of access (such as creatine). They can be beneficial, but you should not rely on these products.

Fat burners would be very low down on my recommendation list in terms of supplements, but if you have everything else in your training and diet nailed down and some money to spend, then you may feel that you are in a position to see what they do for you.

Or, just enjoy a coffee…

Ben

 

5 Easy Ways To Appreciate Life Every Day

Benjamin J Marshall

Benjamin J Marshall

Take notice of your breathing.

  • This is one thing that almost no one does. Take notice of your breathing. Breathe deeply through your nose, feel the air hit the back of your mouth and fill your lungs. It’s an amazing feeling.
  • Because breathing is a subconscious action, many of us take it for granted; we are not aware we are doing it. Just for one minute, marvel at the physiology and biology which encompasses the simple act of breathing.
  • By doing this, you are not only in control of your body, you are also control of your mind as well. Focusing on breathing allows you time to calm your mind and think about what you are doing.

Drink more water.

  • I guarantee that right now you are thirsty. Think about it. Your mouth feeling thick and it is ever so hard to swallow, you have a slight tightness in the head and you’re feeling hungry? You are not drinking enough water.
  • Drinking more water will improve your mood by relieving dehydration symptoms, head ache, hunger.
  • By incorporating more water in your daily routine, your skin will improve and your muscles will be fuller as it aids with the intake and expulsion of salts and minerals.

Proper posture.

  • If you are sat at a desk now, consider your posture at this moment. Hunched over, shoulders rounded forward, head hanging down?
  • Stop, sit up and into your seat till your bum touches the back. Lean backwards till your upper back hits your chair and then pull your shoulders back. If your chair is too far back, lean forward till you are vertical with your spine. Finally, feel the crown of your head lift up as though someone was pulling you up by a string attached to your crown.
  • Not only will you feel more awake, but you will suffer less from aches and pains brought on from the over stretching of a muscle as it struggles to hold you in a unnatural place.
  • Over time, this will become more natural and your supporting muscles will strengthen.

Smile more.

  • Take notice of your face right now. It will feel heavy with a drag over your eyes. Simply reset your face to a smile. You will feel your eyes widen, allowing more light into them, tension in your forehead will be released, your mouth will be pulled up at the corners and you will instantly be happier.
  • Seeing someone smile tends to make us smile, so by smiling more you will also effect others and how others see you. When people smile and receive a smile back, the basic human need for satisfaction through acceptance is justified, thus relaxing you and causing your mood to improve.
  • What else can I say – smiling makes you happy!

 

Benjamin J Marshall

Look up at the world.

  • Many people become absorbed by the mundane chores of everyday life they fail to realise the world around them. Instead of walking along looking down at the ground or your phone, look at the scenery and surroundings.
  • When you are walking stand tall and look around, take in what is around you. Feel your place in the world and view how busy life is. Appreciate the weather. If it is raining, consider the rain drops the cloud formations or how the wind moves the environment around you.
  • The world is incredible and we are only a small part of it. So look around and realise where you are.

These are my 5 top tips which we can do every day to instantly to feel more self aware, improve our behaviour, productivity and as a result, allow us to appreciate life.

I hope they help you as much as they help me.

Ben

Training Splits: 5 Day Body Break Down

Benjamin J Marshall

I have been asked a lot recently about different gym routines or training splits.

This is something that has to be discovered over time and developed to suit the individual. But the important thing is it has to be tailored to suit your own lifestyle and individual goals. While you can’t just read an exercise routine from a magazine and expect it to work for you, it can be a good way to get a starting idea. There are a number of things to consider when designing your training routine:

What are your goals?

There is no point wanting to look like a fitness model and then jumping on the treadmill for an hour every day. Your training has to match your goals.

What is your time availability?

How many times a week are you going to be able to work out? 3 times? 5 times? 7 times ? If you can only get to the gym 3 times a week then your training schedule will be very different to someone who can go 6-7 times.

You may have to double up body parts and focus more on the basic compound movements rather than isolation and extra exercises – this is fine if this is the case but these are all things you need to figure out.

For the majority of people who are committed to getting into shape, a 5 day split works very well and is very easy to manage in terms of time, but also breaking down body parts.

Below is an example of a 5 day body part split:

  •  Legs
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Arms

You can then put 2 rest days in where best suits you. Some people will want to work out straight through the week and take the weekend off. Others may want to have two days working out, a rest day, then 3 days working out and then a second rest day.

These workouts focus on the big compound movements to start with and then isolation movements to follow.

I am not saying this is the best split for you, I’m not saying these are the only exercises you should do for those work outs. This is just a basic idea of what you could break your body parts down into if you are training 5 times a week.

Have a look and take what you want from this and adapt it to suit you.

Enjoy.

Ben

Day 1 – Legs

Squats – heavy 2 warm up sets 10 reps, 5 working sets. (At least 5 reps more than 8 then up the weight.)

Deadlifts 1 warm up set 5reps,  5 sets of 3-5 heavy 1 drop set of 10 reps

Legs extension 4 sets 10-12 reps

Hamstring curl 4 sets 10 – 12

Calf  raises 5 sets of 20 / failure.

Day 2 – chest

Chest press bench or db 2 warm up sets. 5 sets (upping the weight) 1 drop sets.

Db incline fly 6 sets of 8-12

Dips 5 sets of 12

Cable fly 5 sets of 8-12

Push ups failure

Day 3 – back

Pull up 5 sets of body weight to failure

Row (bent over or db) 4 sets of 8-12

Shrugs Db drop set or barbell 4 sets – 15, last set drop weight 10 reps

Pull down machine 4 sets 10-12 reps

Row machine 4 sets 10 -12

Back fly 4 sets 15

Day 4 – Shoulders

Shoulder press (bar or db) 2 warm up sets 10 reps, 4 working sets 5-10

Lateral raise 4 sets 12- 15 reps strict form

Upright row (bar or smith machine) 4 sets 10 reps

Rear felt raise / rear felt fly (cable or db) 4 sets 10-15 reps / 10- 15 reps

Arnold press 4 sets  12-15 reps

Day 5 – Arms

Triceps skull crushers bar or db 4 sets 5-8

Db Biceps curl seated 4 sets 8-10

Triceps kick back db 4 sets 10-15

Biceps bar curl 4 sets 8-12

Triceps cable push down 4 sets 12-15

Biceps cable curl 4 sets 12-15

A Beginners Guide to Nutrition

Benjamin J Marshall

Benjamin J Marshall

**Edit: I posted this in 2016 before I went vegan in 2017, I have left this up for accountability but I do not promote the use of any animal products for any reason especially in health.

If you really want to change yourself to be healthier you need to change your diet and focus on nutrition. A diet isn’t something you go onto. You’re not on a diet, if you’re ‘on’ a diet you can come ‘off’ it.

Your diet is the selection of foods that you eat every day.

You don’t need to go on a crazy low carb diet or a radical 500k kcal diet. These are short term solutions and these are exactly the kind of diet someone goes “on” to just to then come off and then people end up going back to exactly where they started.

Your diet should be BALANCED this is the most important thing.

You can personalize it however you want. If you want higher fat and low carb or visa versa that is fine as long as you’re keeping everything in balance. Let’s talk about balance – then your meals should be made up of a balance between protein, carbohydrates and fats.

Here’s a simple breakdown of balance and why.

Fats:

Far too many people say that fat is bad for you or even worse that fat will make you fat,

This is simply not true, it is an oversimplification and has sadly impacted on the way in which the general public now view foods. You need fats in your diet to help hormone production and to stay healthy.

Fat does not go to being stored as fat any more than any other food! That is not how nutrition works.

Carbohydrates:

Carbs have also received bad press recently with “low carb” marketing taking over stores. People think that if something is low carb that it will be better for them – this again is not true.

What is a carb? In the most simplistic term a carb is the easiest source of energy for the human body. Be it complex or simple it is still available energy. You need energy to live remember so why have a low carb version if something if you want energy?

Protein:

Proteins are the building blocks of the human body. Some people thank that protein is only needed if you are a body builder but this is simply not the case at all. Protein makes up everything we are, our hair our skin, and of course our muscles. Everyone needs protein to maintain good cellular health and help repair your body. Don’t think protein isn’t important for you because you’re not aiming to put on muscle or if you’re worried about getting huge (protein won’t make you put on muscle magically).

And note that I haven’t said meat here, protein isn’t just meat, protein can be found in a large variety of vegetables and grains, so for you veggies out there don’t neglect protein and make sure you’re getting enough.

So what is a good balance?

You should try to make sure that every meal you have is balanced in the sense you have a good proportion of protein and carbs per meal as well as a smaller proportion of fats as remember these are more calorifically dense. Balance also falls over the whole day not just one meal, there is no advantage of eating little and often compared to a traditional 3 meals a day, as long as you are eating enough calories and a balance of Macro-nutrients then it honestly does not matter.

Ben