How To Stay In Shape Whilst Travelling

Ben Marshall

Hey everyone,

Sorry I have been gone for so long but the past 3 months have been a bit of a whirlwind. Moving to the literal other side of the world (The UK to Australia) and then driving across it from east to west (Perth to Sydney) has taken most of my time.It’s been incredible and now being based on the east coast I still have a lot more travelling to do. However throughout all this health and fitness has not been far from my mind.

Travelling can really take it out of you both mentally and physically. This can be detrimental to your physical fitness goals; if you’re physically tired then you won’t want to exercise. If you’re mentally tired you might not make such great choices on your diet. From experience, I can tell you that planning a balanced meal out and then trying to cook it on a gas stove isn’t the most appealing thing when everyone else has take away. So I wanted to list out the ways I try and stay on top of my diet and exercise when travelling.

My top tips for staying in shape when travelling are:

Plan ahead:

Know roughly how long you are away for, what resources you will access to and when and also what your diet is most likely to be.

For me this was easy, I know I will be travelling for about 3 months, I know that I will have gym access whenever I am in a city environment, so I purchased a 24 access card for one of the most popular gyms in Australia. So no matter when I have some free time I can access the gym rather than letting its opening times dictate my trip.

As for food, I am in complete control of my diet due to travelling via car and therefore carrying and cooking all my own food. I do know that the foods I carry are mostly going to be longer life items such as canned goods such as beans and then dried foods such as pasta and rice.

Take the most of any opportunity:

If you know you have an hour spare in the morning before anything is planned, get up early and workout. It doesn’t have to be in a gym, a beach will do (actually beach workouts are so much harder than a gym workout- just try one).

Take any small victory you can:

In these situations, you might not feel like waking up from a tent or from sleeping in your car and exercising but I can guarantee that you will feel amazing after you do. You don’t have to set records or even work out as you normally would. But by doing something you will set yourself up in the right mind frame to stay on track to your goals.


Some days you won’t be able to go to the gym, sometimes there will be a few days in a row in which you won’t be able to work out. That’s ok! It can do you good to have time away from it. As long as you are conscious of your activity level and energy intake (and by that I mean keep in balance your food intake to your energy expenditure) then you will be fine.

I actually went 8 days without using the gym, this not only gave my body a break but also meant that as soon as I got back into a situation where I could workout I had more motivation than ever to get back to it.

Just remember health is a balance of physical and mental happiness, sometimes to really benefit mentally such as from experiences you have to be a little lenient in your physical happiness. It’s not the end of the world to lose some definition in your body, and I don’t mean give up and forget about your goals, stay on track as much as you can but you decided to travel for the experiences of a lifetime, don’t let anything get in the way of that, especially not yourself.



How To Go Vegetarian

Going Veggie?


Benjamin Marshall

So Recently I decided to go vegetarian

For those who know me this was quite a big shock. I am probably the last person people would expect to give up meat. I love meat, the taste the texture, the nutritional profile (because I’m a nerd). I have done eating challenges of wings, steak, burgers and would have safely said meat was an integral part of my diet especially when eating out.

When eating out I would rely on it as a convenient and easy way to ensure I get my protein intake in, especially chicken and beef. I would be the first person you would think of when it came time to eat steak (not because I am a Meat Head).

But yet I’ve decided to give it up… why?

I’m not going to go into a moral debate on here as to my reasoning behind it. There are so many arguments over this subject and this is not what I want to get into on this post. The only relevant reason to this post as to why I gave it up is:

 because I can!

You do not require “meat” to stay healthy or to build muscle. What you require is protein, and yes meat is a great source of complete protein but there are also many other sources of protein which can more than adequately fulfil my requirements.

Where will I get my Protein from?

Lentils, chickpeas, cannellini beans, rice, peas, kidney beans, broccoli, eggs, milk, yoghurt, pasta, wheat, soy, peanuts, cashews, almonds the list goes on and on.

Meat is not the only source of protein and you will be surprised at how much of your own protein intake is gathered from none meat sources.

How will I make sure I am getting my protein requirements?

Due to the fact I track my Macros (that is that I count the protein, carbs and fats in everything I eat) I will have a very accurate understanding of my nutritional balance, exactly the same as I would if I were still eating meat, I am just choosing to get my protein from a different source.

 The major consideration here is that if I choose to get my protein from beans and pulses, I have to account for the fact I am getting my protein alongside my carbohydrates. Lean meats are a source of protein only and other meats contain fats, now I have to anticipate my carbohydrate intake will be coupled with my protein intake in whole foods.

Of course, this can be fixed by using refined sources such as soy protein or dairy but just something to consider.

I have wanted to do this for a while and finally ran out of excuses….so here we go a new chapter in my life.

This post is just a little update and I will go into much more detail in upcoming blogs.

Stay tuned,



Shoulder Motivation

Shoulder training Benjamin J Marshall



A little motivation.

Here is a short video of my shoulder workout.

 I find it best to work with slightly higher reps and more isolation movements when training shoulders. I still incorporate the pressing movements at the beginning of my workout such as OHP (over head press) with lower rep ranges (5×5) and then again with the split jerk half way through. For the majority of the time however I will use a lighter weight and aim at targeting the individual delt muscles especially my rear delt as I find this is a lagging point for most people (myself included).

Below is my Split:

OHP 5×5
Lateral Raises 5×10
Upright Row 5×10
Split Jerk 5×5
Rear Delt Fly 5 x 12
Cable Press 5×8
Face Pull 5×15

For me I find that I can progressively increase my major lifts whilst also ensuring full stimulation via isolation movements. I am not saying this is how you have to train shoulders but this is just what is working best for me at the moment.


Because shoulder muscles are so small you really do not have to worry about moving masses of weight. Focus on quality of movement and you will find a small amount of weight will really make them burn. If too much weight is used you will end up engaging your back muscles or use momentum to complete the movement.

Enjoy and check out my Youtube channel,



Are Protein Bars Good For You?

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.


When it comes to the question of protein bars and protein intake in general there are lots of opinions which get thrown around, so let me join the debate and give you my take on protein bars.

Are they a good source of protein?

When should you have them?

Are they useful?

Are they worth the money?


Benjamin J Marshall

Firstly let’s define what we are talking about:

There are two types of “Protein bars” the first is a aptly named Protein bar that is because for all intents and  purposes it is a bar made out of a block of protein (usually whey protein), these bars can range from 14g-40g of protein dependent upon size and ingredient make up.

The other type of “Protein bars” are what should be called Meal Replacement bars and these are intended as a convenient substitute for a meal. The problem with these is that sometimes the protein really isn’t that high, ranging between 4g-14g of protein and they tend to have higher carbs and fats than actual Protein bars totalling the same or more calories.

As a general rule you can classify it as a Protein bar if its protein content is the highest macronutrient content. Whereas if it contains comparatively more carbs or high fats and lower protein it is more likely to be a Meal Replacement bar. As the name suggests a meal replacement should be a ….meal replacement and therefore contain the macronutrients you can expect in a small meal, hence the higher fat and carb content, whereas a protein bar should not contain the same high fats and carbs. The best comparison to make is:  if you were to eat only a protein source such as a can of tuna or a chicken breast you would expect a high protein content and a lower fat and carb content. However if you were to eat a small meal such as a chicken sandwich, you would expect the additional fats and carbs and a lower protein content comparatively.

Benjamin J Marshall

Here we have a Meal Replacement bar and a Protein bar both by Profirst: the protein bar has 21g of protein for 199kcal whereas the Meal Replacement contains 14g protein for 210kcal. How does the Meal Replacement bar have more calories if the protein is lower? This is because the carbohydrates are higher with 45g per 100g of bar vs only 31g per bar in the Protein bar. However both these bars are actually very low in calories  and fat only 8-9g respectively whereas some so called “Protein bars” can total over 500 calories with 25- 30g of fat!

The real thing to address here is HOW protein bars are used. What I mean by this is- if you have a sweet tooth and you want to get your “fix” then having a protein bar is probably a much better choice for you than a normal chocolate bar as it will allow you to adhere to your diet.

There is nothing wrong with eating a normal chocolate bar if you can fit it into your diet , the problem only occurs when you then have a craving for another and another and the decision to have one bar can then lead to over consumption of calories.

Benjamin J Marshall

Are they a good source of protein?

Yes and No – Dependent upon what kind of “Protein Bar” you get – some bars “boast” 9g of protein which for a bar of over 300 Calories isn’t very good. You of course can have these but be aware that there will more than likely be other bars which can contain up to 40g of protein.

When should you have them?

There is no time you “should” have a protein bar, they are no better for you than any other source of protein so having a protein bar after a work out will not be better for you than eating a meal with the same amount of protein (and you would probably get more protein from an actual meal). However they are useful if you are busy and traveling as they are small and convenient to carry and don’t go off (although if it’s hot they can melt and get very messy).

Are they Useful?

In short – Yes they are, protein bars and meal replacement bars can be a very effective way to cure hunger pains and tide you over. However as they are small I would not recommend trying to replace your lunch completely with one bar as you will be hungry later on, leading you to need to eat something else and potentially binge snacking and throwing your diet out the window. However if you have a little wait before your next meal then they can be a great and convenient little protein hit.

Are they worth the money?

No -If you are looking for a sweet fix then they probably aren’t worth the money, as most protein bars are around the £2.80 -£4 mark if bought individually in store. Compared to a normal chocolate bar of 65p(ish) for a sugar fix, I would probably say save some money have a little chocolate bar and fit it into your diet. If you are low on protein and need boost your total for the day and a wholesome meal isn’t available then it is an expensive way of getting a 20g of protein but the necessity is up to you.

Yes-However if you can buy them in bulk then you can pick them up for around 75p-£1 mark then yes I would recommend them as they will help get your protein in.

Over all do I recommend them?

If you want to have them and they work into your diet without breaking the bank then go for it, they can be tasty and convenient. But they are not the be-all and end-all of protein source and they tend to be expensive for what they are. If you are going to buy them I would suggest shopping around and ordering them online from places such as – as they tend to have good sales and offers which work out cheaper.

But the key here is to enjoy your food which allows you to progress towards your goals and if protein bars can do that then they are worth it to you.


Why Cardio Isn’t as Effective as Weight Training for Losing Fat

 Benjamin J Marshall


Why cardio isn’t as effective as weight training for losing fat

If you are newish to fitness and want to lose some weight the go to answer is start running yes?

NO! Let me talk you through why cardio will not help you lose weight.

Cardio burns more calories?

So there is an idea that cardio burns more calories than weight training however this is not the case. The theory is that LISS (low intensity steady state) training such as going for a run for an hour will burn a constant amount of calories for that hour, whereas weight training is broken down into sets where rest is included between each set, therefore in a hour spent in the gym weight training around half of it will actually not be lifting weights. Therefore you burn more calories doing cardio? …..No not so.

Think about the energy required when taking 20 paces jogging, and then compare that to the energy needed to do 20 squats with resistance weight. The squats will require a lot more energy to be used and you will find that you can easily match your energy output over the hour even including the rests. Another point is that cardio burns calories only whilst you are doing it where as weight training requires your body to use energy to repair and grow the muscles that you have broken down which continues after you finish your exercise.

Ben Marshall

Running or Cycling are the same as working out your legs

No sadly they are not and there are three reasons for this:

Firstly: the range of motion and targeted muscles- when running your range of motion is actually very small, you are not performing a lunge every step. So the muscles do not have to engage as much as they are not working through a whole range of motion. When a muscle is put through a whole range of motion the entire muscle is stretched and then contracted requiring a lot more energy, when a muscle is not required to perform an entire range of motion the contraction is not as great and less energy is required.

Secondly: Targeted muscles used- You are doing the same motion over and over and over again when performing cardio, think about an elliptical or sep machine where you literally cannot change your range of motion. This means that some muscles are not being worked in the same way as other muscles, cycling is far more inclusive as the range of motion is bigger but you cannot change which muscle group you are targeting. This can lead to muscle imbalance in the legs and is not effective as a whole leg workout even if you really “feel” it.

Thirdly: the muscle fibres engaged – with cardio work you are targeting your slow twitch muscle fibres as they are responsible for muscle endurance. And you then neglect the fast twitch muscle fibres which are used for resistance explosive training and are also bigger.

The exception here is sprinting which uses your fast twitch muscle fibres but although that might fall underneath the umbrella term of “running or cycling” sprint training is actually not cardio and is actually more plyometric and explosive resistance training,

“You can target your fat in a Fat Burning Zone in cardio ….”

This is an out dated term which has been exploited and blown way out of proportion. The theory behind it is that lower intensity exercise burns a higher percentage of calories from your fat stores rather than you glycogen stores. This however does not mean you burn more calories!

Yes you might burn a larger percentage of fat calories but your overall calorific burn will be much, much lower. You may burn 200 calories and 60% coming from fat in a “fat burning zone”, but you will burn 400 calories with only 40% coming from fat outside of this so called “zone”. The ideal is that you burn glycogen calories when working out because it is stored locally in the muscle and is used as energy when that muscle is use. People get confused thinking that they only want to burn calories from fat when working out. However don’t worry about this. Focus on your total energy balance for the day and as long as you are in a deficit you will lose weight.  It is much better to use your glycogen as energy when you are exercising and your fat stores for the rest of the day, because that is what they are designed to do, slow release energy!

But you can count how many calories you burn doing cardio?  

No quite, you can measure an output which can be consistent for you as an individual but this does not actually equate to calories necessarily.

In a number of studies by the University of California it was concluded that cardio machines over-estimate calorific expenditure, and sometimes it is by a lot! Treadmills can give you up to 42% extra calories burnt, even those that take into account your weight can only give you an average covering the distance over time and does not take into account the actual effort.

So you can not equate burning 800 calories an hour on a treadmill to put you into an 800 calorie deficit.

Now this doesn’t mean they are useless, but you have to take it as a non value measurement. For example if a someone burns what the treadmill says is 400 calories it does not actually matter what this represents , but as long as the they continue to hit this number they will continue to burn this same unknown calorie number.

If they want to increase weight lose they just need to increase this number so if the treadmill now reads 800 calories although they might not be actually burning 800 calories as they have doubled this unknown number therefore doubling calories burnt.

And the final nail in the coffin…Comparison 

Consider two people one of whom loses 10 pounds via cardio and the other loses 10lb via weight training, you think that they will look the same? No they won’t. The person only using only cardio will lose 10lbs of body fat as well as muscle. The person using weight training will actually lose considerably more body fat as although their weight will have dropped 10lbs they will have also gained muscle which adds weight so to lose 10lb they will potentially lose more like 15lbs of body fat as well as building a more athletic body.


I am not saying you shouldn’t do cardio, it definitely has its place in a healthy lifestyle but what I am saying is please do not jump into the idea that cardio is the only way forward in losing weight. Too many people fall into this trap and are then disappointed and disheartened with their results. If you want to look like a long distance runner then train like one, however if this isn’t your goal then this isn’t how you should be focusing on training.

Take your goal and find the best way to achieve it and in the case of fat loss this is not by doing endless hours of cardio.


How To Stay Healthy Whilst Traveling

 Resistant Squats

How to stay healthy whilst traveling

I have just returned back from a 3 month stay in America and one of the biggest questions I get asked is how to stay healthy whilst traveling.

I was pretty lucky as I was based at a summer camp for 2 months which allowed me access to a gym as well as a regular and reliable selection of food. This being said I was very flexible with my diet and enjoyed many days off from training and a number of indulgent meals.  When traveling down the east coast of America from Pennsylvania to Georgia training became a lot less frequent and food was more of what was convenient or provided to me by the friends I stayed with. This tended to be very, very good food but sometimes not the most nutritious– Pizza, BBQ, homemade Lasagne,  the works. All were extremely tasty and because of this I can safely say I had more than my fair share.

It is fine to enjoy these kinds of foods in moderation. The problem is when traveling that sometimes lack of availability of other food means these can become your only source of sustenance leading to moderation going out the window.

So here are 5 things you can do to stay healthy when traveling


Stay active

Limit your damage

Get up early

Relax and Enjoy yourself

Research – this is your biggest tool. You will probably know what sort of activities you will be doing and where you will be based as you have booked the trip unless you are a complete nomad and have no planning. If you do have a rough plan then you can figure out what your time restraints are in regards to working out and also what sort of food options are available to you. See if there is a gym close by or at where you are staying or see if there is a new activity you haven’t tried before, beach workouts, yoga, maybe some sort of dance class. There is a wealth of activities to keep your exercise up; you just need to discover them.

Stay Active- I have found when I travel I can spend a long time not moving, be it in a car or on a train. Sometimes to get from place to place you might spend 10 hours in a seated position. If this is the case then try to stay active when you can, go for a jog before you travel, and when you get chance stretch. Make time to really get your heart going before or after you travel. Not only will this burn some calories but it will also help so much with your mental mood, if you have been sat in the same position for hours and hours you probably will start to feel a little bored and tired. Getting up and getting active will make a huge difference to your mood.

Limit the damage- If you are on holiday or traveling there will be times that you might not make the “healthiest” choices in terms of food. But sometimes this has to be tried for the experience, if you are in America you have to have a slice of pizza, it is one of those things that has to be done. BUT…. this doesn’t mean you have to eat an entire pizza for lunch and dinner day after day. Go out and have a really nice pizza for lunch but then choose to have a lower calorie dinner. As expressed above everything is fine in moderation and you definitely should enjoy and experience things when traveling, as food is so varied across the world don’t ignore this but be mindful about what you are eating.

My best advice to limit the damage is when you are going to order meals chose foods you enjoy but ask for them without sauces or oils on, you can literally save yourself 100’s of calories by avoiding these and you still enjoy your food.

Get up early – If you have planned a day of activities to make the most of your experience of traveling then you don’t want to waste your afternoon in a gym. Get up early and work out so that it is  completed and out the way for the day. Not only will you be done with your workout but you will also be more awake and ready to enjoy your travel.

Relax and enjoy yourself- accept that you won’t be able to work out as much as you want to (and that’s okay!) don’t stress about it. If there’s nothing you can do then ….there is nothing you can do, relax and focus on the trip you are on, enjoy it, and when you get chance to exercise then give it 110% but don’t waste your time away worrying (about anything for that matter). Be active when you can and be creative with some cardio or body weight. Remember fitness should be something you enjoy doing, not something you are a slave to.

Staying healthy doesn’t have to be hard when traveling; it just takes a little dedication and the right choices now and again. If you have already had a fast food for lunch then maybe go for something more wholesome for dinner, but this being said, enjoy the experience travelling gives you and sometimes it is not the worst thing to indulge ….. just not every day.


5 Ways to be More Successful

benjamin j marshall

5 Ways to be More Successful

Here are my top 5 tips for being more successful in everything you do. I use these everyday and it helps me get the most out of every single day.

Wake up early

Waking up early is the most productive thing you can do, and when I say early I do not mean 7am. I mean 5am or earlier. Yes this might make you groan but if you can drag yourself out of your bed and get started on your day you will have gained two more hours than almost everyone else and trust me when I say you feel fantastic doing it.

When you wake up… as long as you stay awake and actually get up, your body should be fully rested and ready to go. Your brain should be working at full capacity, able to make use of this time when there are no distractions and it is quiet allowing you to get on with what really matters.

As the days are getting longer and longer you will feel more awake for longer periods of time, studies have shown that our bodies adapt to the natural light cycle, sleeping more in the winter and needing less in the summer. After a few days of getting up early you won’t even notice it.

Exercise in the morning

The perfect way to wake you up, and achieve something before the day begins. This goes hand in hand with waking up early.

This is especially true if you want to be successful in reaching a fitness goal or whether you want to be successful in other areas of your life, exercise is king for making you feel good, productive and energetic.

After a long day at work most people will not want to go to an overcrowded gym to try and get a workout in. So they don’t, they make an excuse to themselves and go home creating a day of lethargy.

If fitness is the area you want to be successful in then be aware there is no secret benefit to weight loss or muscle gain by exercising in the morning, the big secret is that it gives you time to exercise. In terms of fitness goals it means you can complete your work out and stay on track.

If fitness isn’t your direct goal you shouldn’t neglect this little trick, exercise is a effort and reward complex which in turn sets up your day to be positive from the start. The chemistry behind this is the endorphin hit you will get from the exercise will set you up in a great mood to face the day.

Listen to music

Music has an emotional engagement which can stimulate many functions in the brain. Listening to the correct music for a chosen activity can dramatically improve your output. This has been shown in sport and also study. Do not choose to listen to the radio with mindless chatter, and I would advise trying to work without lyrical music playing behind you. Your brain ends up focusing on the words of the music distracting your thought process. Choose instrumental music, calm or progressive can be used. Although be aware that if you are tired calm music may not help your concentration… whereas others may find this centres their minds, you’ll have to find out yourself. Personally I like to listen to calm but progressive music, not classical (although this works brilliantly for some people).

Eat correctly

Making sure your diet is in check will help you no end when it comes to being productive, if your body is correctly fuelled you won’t be distracted by hunger or thoughts of food. Similarly if you are eating an unbalanced diet then you will probably feel lethargic, unenthusiastic and probably not the most positive about yourself.

Carbs – please get over this horrible lie that carbs are bad for you. They are not! They are energy!! Your body needs this to function and more importantly your brain needs this to function. If you’re having trouble concentrating have a banana or some cereal and you will feel much better.

Fats  – fats control our hormones, if your hormones are messed up there is no way you’re going to feel good in yourself or be able to be productive.

Protein – if you’re trying to be fit protein is a must to retain muscle and to help nitrogen balance in the body. If you’re trying to be successful outside of fitness protein is still essential to prioritise in your diet as not only does it fill you up longer, keeping hunger away, but it is extremely satisfying stopping cravings, keeping you focused.

Also included in this little section is drinking enough liquid. Now liquid intake does not have to be 8 glasses a day, water intake is very individual, some people need a lot more than this others need less. However having water next to us not only encourages us to drink more which is good, but also most of the time when we are dehydrated we have headaches or we confuse this for hunger when actually it’s just thirst. Having water on hand can prevent both these from occurring.

 Be proactively productive

This may sound obvious if you’re trying to be productive but stick with me.

What I mean by proactively productive is by making sure you have a clear plan of what you want to achieve and then ensuring that your preparation for that is in line with this plan.

Too many people when faced with a task will become incredibly productive in all different areas, cleaning, organising or sorting everything out, this is just a distraction technique stopping you from actually progressing with what you need to. Yes the actions might be “productive” but they are not proactively aiming you towards achieving your goal. These are procrastination!

Consider what you need to do and focus on this and this alone.

If you find yourself with spare moments think about what you can do next to help you achieve your goal.

Those are my top 5 tips to being more successful generally in life, these apply to working or study, training or anything goal related. I am far from perfect and sometimes it is hard to keep these in mind, especially being proactively productive; I am a huge one for procrastination. But just try to be mindful of these and you can see the difference it will make to your work ethic.



What is Progressive Overload Training?

Benjamin J Marshall

What is progressive overload training?

Progressive overload training is exactly what it says on the tin, it is where you progressively overload the muscle causing it to have to grow to keep up with increasing weight.

In a simplistic nutshell when the body is given a stimulus it adapts to it. That is why you find you are able to cope with a weight now that you might have struggled with at the start of your training.

Almost all training revolves around progressive overload training in one way or another, either by increasing the weight or increasing the reps however there comes a point where increasing the reps isn’t as beneficial as increasing the weight.

A stronger muscle is a bigger muscle and a bigger muscle is a stronger muscle.

This isn’t necessarily 100% true all the time but as a general rule yes, your body adapts to a heavier weight by increasing the number and size of the muscle fibres causing the muscle to be big and also stronger.

In practice

Normally progressive overload is accomplished by dedicating a desired rep range for a number of sets. When you can achieve the top of this rep range for all sets you then up the weight.


Your target is: Dumbbell chest press of 20kg (45lbs) for five sets 8-12 reps

You might manage 12 reps your first set, 12 reps your second set and then 8 for the remaining sets when you first start off. However the next week you aim at completing 12 reps on your third set as well as your first and second set. And the week after aim for 12 reps on all sets. If you achieve this then you would up the weight to 22kg or the next increase available in dumbbells and start again aiming for at least 8 reps for five sets.

If you can achieve 12 reps for five sets on 20kg you should be able to reach 8 reps on 22kg, it is likely that you will be able to do more than this for the first few sets.

This is a high volume example and many people like to use a heavier weight for compound movements such as squat or dead lift with a rep range of 3 -5 reps. So your goal would be to eventually complete 5 reps of 5 sets with a weight and once this is achieved you increase the weight by a small percentage and repeat.

How it helps you?

If you’re going to the gym, it is a pretty safe bet that you are looking at building some muscle. Rather than going in there with no idea about the weight you can lift or what to do, the principal of progressive overload gives you a strategy to improve. It might take you a few weeks to find the correct weight as most people will choose a lighter weight to start with and find they can move up relatively quickly.

When you can’t progress?

If you are going to the gym and your weight isn’t going up or you are struggling with the same weights as when you started then there are three possible reasons:


 One reason is your nutrition isn’t right, if you are not getting adequate amounts of protein carbs and fat your body will struggle to change. As a general rule you do have to be in a caloric surplus to “grow” there are some exceptions to this general rule but as a base line you have to be in a positive energy balance (taking in more energy than expending) so that the excess calories, fat, protein and carbs can go into creating new cells and growth.

Nutrition is the number one reason why your weights won’t be improving.

2.You are not pushing yourself hard enough

It may be the case that you have become a little stagnant in your routine, been doing the same work out split for a number of months or even years and you are mentally not pushing yourself to progress.

To overcome this either switch up your training program or take a deload week, where you lower all the weights you would normally lift and just focus on correct form, or take a week off completely. It may sound counterproductive however if you take a week off from lifting by the time you get back you should be raring to go and it should be this energy that will push you to new limits.

 3.Progressive overload when losing weight.

If your weights are staying the same it is possible that you are still improving. You don’t necessarily have to increase the weight or reps of an exercise, you can also achieve progression by keeping the weight you use consistent if you are losing body weight. This is something people often forget.

Let me explain.

If you can squat 80kg (180lbs) for 5 reps and you weigh (for the sake of argument) 80kg and then go to weighing 75kg and still continue to squat 80kg for 5 reps you have still improved as your strength to weight ratio has become better. It is a progression even if it is slightly hidden, and would suggest if you then slowly increased your weight back up to 80kg that you would be able to lift more which would be … progressive overload.

I hope you can see that progressive overload is effectively the base of any exercise program, you are either gradually completing a movement, faster, for more reps or with a heavier weight. This can be applied to any program.

Applying this to your regime and I am sure you will see a huge difference very quickly.



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.


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.


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…



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.



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