Five Things We Learned About Fitness in May

14/06/2016 10:38 | Updated 14 June 2016

Another month has been and gone, and with it, the usual stream of brand new fitness research has appeared. But what does this new research say, and how can you use to to benefit your training?

1. The kind of shoes you are wearing will affect your squat.
Ever wondered how your shoes can affect your squat? Well, wearing normal sports shoes could be hampering your progress, as it increases the amount of dorsiflexion at the ankle (when you point your toes up). When this is compared to performance in weightlifting shoes, the amount of ankle dorsiflexion is reduced, allowing your knees to travel further over your toes. This is particularly beneficial for people with limited mobility in the ankles. So if you enjoy squatting and find that you have limited mobility in the ankles, then give it a try using weightlifting shoes.

2. Focusing on external cues helps to increase maximal force.
What do you concentrate on when you're lifting, your muscles (internal cues) or the impact you are having on your immediate environment (external cues)?

A study carried out by Halperin et al looked at the difference between focusing on internal and external cues during the mid-thigh pull. They found that focusing on external cues can improve maximal force production by 9 per cent, when compared to the 3 per cent improvement found when concentrating on internal cues.

The take home message from this is that rather than focusing on what your body is doing, take into consideration the environment that you are in and use it to your advantage. For example, focus on pushing your feet firmly into the ground when you deadlift, and try and force the ground away from you, or trying to split the bar apart when you are doing a close-grip bench press.

3. Smoking will ruin your fitness efforts.
In the spirit of World No Tobacco Day, we thought we'd better look into the impacts smoking has on fitness. Even if you're young and fit, and train often, it's unlikely you'll escape all the negative side effects of smoking. One study looked at the effects of smoking on physical fitness among 3,045 Navy personnel and found that smoking was associated with lower exercise levels and lower physical endurance, both cardio and muscular. Even after differences in the exercise levels of smokers and the non-smokers were taken into account, the smokers fared worse in the tests. If you're looking to improve your general health and physical fitness, smoking should be one of the first things you drop.

4. Squatting can help increase your sprint performance.
The benefits of squatting seem to come up in all of our monthly posts, but if you're still not convinced that squats are for you, did you know that they can even improve your sprint performance? That's not to say you have to go and squat with heavy weights. A study by Custodio et al tested the effects of low and moderate load full squat training on changes in sprint running times over 10m, 20m and 10-20m split. What they noticed was that using low loads (40-60 per cent of 1RM) to improve 10-20 split and the 20m sprint was greater than using moderate load (65-80% of 1RM). So you don't need to squat heavy to see an improvement in performance!

5. Losing weight will affect your appetite.
As we know, in order to achieve weight loss we must create an energy deficit by altering the amount of energy consumed versus the amount of energy we expend. This can be achieved through our diets, through exercise or a combination of both. However, once we've lost weight, it leads to a decrease in activity energy expenditure. NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) or the activities of daily living, play a big role when you are trying to lose weight. Its importance is often underrated. A study found that activity energy expenditure decreased to 400kcal in people who had lost at least 10 per cent of their bodyweight compared to controls, even if you have kept the weight off for a year. So even once you've reached your target weight, it's important to keep your NEAT/daily activity levels up.

Here are a few ways that you can increase your NEAT levels:

  • Walk to work
  • Walk during you lunch hour
  • Take a family walk after dinner
  • Set up a treadmill in front of the tv
  • Cut the grass with push lawn mower
  • Take the stairs
  • Park further away
  • Walk to a co-workers desk instead of emailing them
  • Get off a bus stop early
  • Walk a dog
  • Buying a pedometer

Conscious, consistent efforts to improve NEAT must be made to help with long term fat loss success.

Co-authored by Tobi Adipegba, Personal Trainer at Hall Training Systems.