Personal Training advice

Hi All,

My name is Keith and I am a qualified Personal Trainer. I was doing a eating plan for one of my clients and came upon this site and thought I would sign up and see if I can give some advice about training and healthy eating. As a PT we talk about lifestyle change rather than diets. Most people who go on diets tend to put the weight back on because they have not dealt with the issues that made them overweight in the first place. I work full time in Puregym in Billericay but I also have my own business training clients at home in the Essex area. I find a lot of people are intimidated by the gym and would rather train at home. I see lots of people join the gym, spend a hour going from one bit of equipment to another, barely break a sweat and then go home. After about a month they get frustrated because they are not improving and don't come any more. I try and catch these new joiners to help them out and give them advice about the exercises they should be doing but the gym is open 24/7 so there are a lot I miss. So have you heard these words before? I don't want to use weights in case I get big muscles? I know guys who train 6 days a week, heave enormous weights around and still can't get muscles!!

So if you have any questions ask away. I will try and pop by every couple of days and help out with answers. In terms of exercise for myself. I train 6 days a week. 3 days a week when I do my shift at the gym I do 10 exercise classes, most of these are 30 minutes and my three Spin classes are 45 minutes. I do not do every minute of these flat out as a lot of time I am teaching and encouraging, but the spin class I do every second the same as my class. I then train 3 days a week using weights on a body part basis. So back one day, chest the next and Shoulders. I used to do a leg day but with all the cardio it is too hard at the moment. That does not include the work I do when I am working my 1-1 clients.


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35 Replies

  • Hi PTKeith,

    I was almost an inactive person until 2 weeks ago when i started walking 30 min for 6 days a week and joined the gym today. (I have used gym before and given up soon). I am 110kg now. What would you recommend to a person like me when using the gym, to enjoy and make the most of the time I spend there? Also let me know any tips that would aid weight loss apart from diet.


  • Hello, I highly recommend talking to the PT's at the gym that you have joined. They can make you feel welcome and help you start a programme off on the right foot and most importantly make it fun. Firstly see if they have any beginner exercise classes, where the exercises are not so energetic. Class exercises are a great way of exercising as you are not on your own and when you see others making progress it encourages you. When we talk about exercise we need to think about something that makes us out of breath. Initially for you this will be difficult as you will feel breathless on any bit of kit, but the most important thing is take is slowly. Avoid things like the cross trainers and steppers and start with a nice walk on a treadmill. Initially it will just be a gentle stroll but as you progress and start to lose weight you can increase the intensity by trying a fast walk, slow walk. Then onto slow walk, fast walk, gentle jog. Progression is key really, try and do better than the last time you went every time you go. When I was really overweight I could not manage more than 3 minutes on a cross trainer. Each time I went to the gym I tried to add another 30 seconds to that. When I got to 10 minutes I started adding some fast sections to that of 30 second bursts. I eventually could do 15 minutes with a 2 minute warm up, then 11 cycles of 45 seconds flat out and 15 seconds slow and 2 minutes cooldown.

    As to aiding weight loss, it is all about really nailing your calories and sticking to the plan. If you do fall off for a day, shrug it off and get straight back in the saddle. Also try and be more active in everyday life. Put a timer on your phone that bleeps every 45 minutes to remind you to move around (PITA when you are watching a movie but you know what I mean) Its all about getting an active mindset.

    Hope this helps?


  • Hi Keith!

    I have a good "excuse" (or so I thought) about being overweight and not being able to exercise! I was overweight (I told myself and others) because I was unable to exercise.

    I now realise that it was just that - an excuse!

    After I'd lost an initial 2 stone, I had a few sessions with a PT to work out what exercise I was able to do and quickly built myself up a little fitness routine which I used to carry out in my home gym (aka the garage with a bit of cushioned flooring!) (more about me and my weight loss journey)

    I now concentrate more on the type of food I eat (currently doing the Blood Sugar Diet) and I do about an hour of stretches and Pilates most mornings as it helps with reducing pain, keeping my body flexible and enabling me to remain independent (I have a physical disability).

    I love my exercise time - I find it relaxing and peaceful. I'd like to build up to doing some HIIT and cardio again. Presently I need to work on getting rid of a piriformus injury / pain that is rather holding me back!

  • Hey, you should hear some of the excuses I hear for not exercising!! Some of the young girls that come to my classes keep having terrible trouble with their trainers and have to do them up (this normally happens in the last 15 seconds of the set!!) Its great that you have managed to get something out of exercise and that you find it such fun. HIIT is great but it does not have to be totally flat out. As long as you are pushing harder than your normal set workout that is good.

    Having injuries especially round the Hip area is a real drag. However you could still do some upper body stuff in your home gym. Especially doing things like supersets of Dumbell curls and overhead tricep press. Do some flat bench press followed by some flat bench flies. Shoulder press followed by side laterals (all these are seated) That will get the old ticker working overtime!! Only need an exercise box and some dumbells/barbells.

  • Thanks for the reply. If you take a look at my profile / Blog, you'll see that most of the upper body stuff you've suggested won't work for me (I have very short arms!) but I do use resistance bands to strengthen my arms and also to help me with my shoulder and neck pains.

  • See :). But plenty I can do. All strapped up in kinesiology tape at the moment!

  • Resistance bands are a great medium for toning muscle. But most of the exercises I would recommend with your arms would need a bit of help from your hips so we will have to wait till that pain clears up.

  • Hi Keith,

    I think it's great you offer your advice on this forum, exactly what we need here. My question is: what exercise is best for toning? To give you a bit background: I'm a mum with a 3 years old and work part time, don't have time for gym, brisk walking and swimming (so I can go with my son) are the exercise I do (gardening for summer). I noticed after child birth, losing weight and putting it back on, the skin on my tummy looks a bit saggy. I'm not looking for a miracle, but I do want to improve the appearance of my body while losing weight.

    Thanks in advance!


  • Hey Jane. As you lose weight you will find that your tummy will tighten up a bit. To tone your whole body you don't really need a gym. Just a couple of dumbells, an exercise box and a exercise mat. You can do a really good workout at home in about 1/2 an hour. Using weights are a great way of toning up and they work the muscle and the body then has to replenish that work out by using the Protein you have eaten. I love swimming as an exercise. However I love doing HIIT swimming even more. How good a swimmer are you? are you a lady swimmer who does not get her hair wet or a face in the water Mark Spitz type? When I go swimming I swim a length doing a front crawl at jog pace then I come back and do a length flat out, I then turn around and do a length doing the breast stroke at jog pace then turn around and come back flat out at Breast stroke. Gets the old ticker going that one. Don't have to do a lot of these lengths to get a great workout. Also tone your shoulder, arms, legs and Abs.

  • Thanks Keith! Good to know my tummy will tighten up a bit when I lose more weight:) another motivation to keep me going! I'll put dumbbells and exercise box on my wish list (I have a wish list for weight loss reward, each week if I lose weight I give myself a bit weight, last time I got myself new swim googles). When you get time, can you be more specific about the weight training, or is there website I can have a look?

    As for swimming, unfortunately I'm not a good swimmer, I can only do basic breast stroke. Nonetheless, I enjoy being in the water with my son, and the workout feeling. At the moment, we are trying to do it once a week, spend about 2 hours in the pool (not all swimming of course, a lot of playing with my son) would help me to tone my body a little bit.

  • Hey no problem. When you get the gear give me a call and I can help you out. You want to do an all over body workout so you train all the main area's like legs, chest, back, shoulders and abs. After a while you can add some isolation work for your triceps and biceps.

    Even if you are not a good swimmer you can still try and push it a little bit. You will be amazed at how out of breath you get.

  • Hi Keith Its great to read your comments and advice. I need to lose about 2 stone and most of my excess weight is round my middle. I drink a lot of diet coke and my circulation is problematic. However I am motivated and ready to get healthy happy and lighter. Thanks 😊

  • Hey, no problem. All of our excess weight is round the middle, lol. Its where the body stores our fat. Girls unfortunately can also store it in their butt and hips!!!! Please drop the diet coke and drink water, it is sooo much better for you and will really help you to lose weight. The coke gives you a huge sugar rush that the body enjoys so much it keeps asking for more. Even though it is diet it is really not good for you. Water makes your food push through the system quicker, keeps you hydrated and really helps digestion. Might also help with your circulation problem too?

    My only other advice is to not put a time limit on your weight loss. Fast weight loss normally means fast weight gain. The body does not want to lose weight and if you tease it off over a long period it will be so much better. All the best on your Fantastic Journey, lets go smash it!!!

  • Thankyou so much Keith 😊 i guess I need to go cold turkey re the diet coke 😅 is there any exercise that you recommend best overall or toning dvds etc?

  • Any exercise that gets your heart rate up. You have to start gently to start with and it may be that initially its just a brisk walk that will get you out of breath. But its important to progress from that. and as the walk gets easier try some fast power walking, then move onto jogging etc. But everything that you do make sure you warm up first and cool down after. The only problem with DVD's is they can't see you to tell you, you are doing an exercise wrong and they don't know what your level of fitness is. But try and do something everyday. that way you are shouting at your body, "this is me now, get used to it!!"

  • thanks Keith for the battle cry and info, I'm going to try and improve my daily workouts :)

  • Great advice thanks so much

  • PTKeith,

    I'd like to take up your offer of advice. I want exercises that remove belly fat. I seem to be losing weight off everywhere else but can't get rid of the muffin top. My neck and shoulders are getting scrawny and my hollow cheeks are not an improvement, but the belly remains stubbornly proud and prominant. Can anything be done?

  • Hi. It would help me answer your question if you can tell me what you currently do for exercise. A wobbly belly is just a store of fat so we cannot spot reduce but have to reduce the fat level of your body then the belly will get slimmer. Muscle and fat are like chalk and cheese you can't change one into another. However you can tone the muscles and when the fat goes you will see the benefits.

  • Would you share which toning exercises are best for us with the large tum areas please. I know fat needs to go cardio wise first but maybe both combined ok?

  • Hey. I will share the best toning exercises for abs but please remember it is diet that will show your abs. So for overall toning and working on your core the best two exercises are the squat and the lunge. When you do these exercises the core has to stabilise the body and as you go down you should concentrate on really contracting your abs hard.

    If you are not working in a gym and can only workout at home you should do a movement for your upper abs, your lower abs and your Back.

    Best for upper abs will be a flat crunch where you lay flat and hold a small weight directly over your chest with straight arms (You might need to start with just your hands till you build up a bit of strength). From this position try and just move your shoulders off the floor and contract in your stomach. Try and hold this for two seconds and lay down and do it again. As you hold the movement breathe all the air out your tummy and try and contract as hard as you can. Don't hold your arms by your head as this will make the move jerk and is back for your neck and don't sit up too far, this is NOT a sit up, which is only a movement for your hip flexors and not your Abs.

    Best for lower abs is a leg raise. Lie flat on the floor or sit on a dining room chair if you struggle to get down on the floor. (This can also be done in bed before you get up laying flat and holding onto the bedstead) From this position put a slight bend in your legs and try and raise your legs slowly up as high as you can. at the top of the movement again hold for a count of 2 and breath out hard and feel the contraction.

    Lower back. lay flat on your face and have your arms right over your head (as if you were surrendering) from this position breath out and try and raise your legs and arms up at the same time. Imagine you are trying to make your body into a C shape. (When you get good we will try for a U!!)

    Do as many of these as you can for a couple of sets each. When Muhammad Ali was asked how many situps he did in training he said about 50. The interviewing was very disparaging and said wow I can do that may and Ali said, yes but I don't start counting till it hurts!!

    Hope this helps?

  • Thanks so much a great response appreciate your taking time to respond

  • This is great! Thanks PTKeith. I have just printed a copy to put on my fridge. Will definitely do the exercises every day.

  • Hi, Thanks for your reply.

    I currently run on the spot holding onto the back of a chair while I wait for the kettle to boil. I have one of those elastic things for rowing exercise, so I do 100 sit ups with that and 100 leg raises per day plus a few floor exercises and squats. I can't jog as my arthritic hip gives way without warning and I fall. I'd really like exercises that fit into daily routines rather that at the gym.

    I'm 69 and feel like I'm losing my agility, so It's not just about weight loss, I want to be more sure footed too.

  • Hi Keith, I started to loose weight second week in Jan. I will be 50 next year, and want to be in good health. Also my lovely man proposed over Christmas, so I will be getting married in 2019!

    I am currently using my fitness pal to track my calories, and I go to a boot camp 3 times a week. I have lost 6lb so far ( weigh in Monday morning) . I know am on the right track, my question is am I best doing alnernate weeks of 3 sessions And the next of 4 sessions? I know your body gets used to exercise, and it can stall weight loss.

    Also I find a lot of conflicting "advice". Are smoothies a good thing to have for breakfast? Or are they calorie ladened?

  • Hi, Well done on your weight loss so far and congrats on your future Wedding. The sessions you do in a week are your preference. The body stalls on fat loss because of what you are eating and not because of your exercise. I will probably say this a lot but you cannot out exercise a bad diet. As long as you keep adjusting your calories as you lose weight you should carry on losing weight. Bodybuilders who compete go down to 5-7% body fat. doing a boot camp 3 times a week is a great way of exercising. If the instructors are good they should slowly be increasing the intensity of the exercises as you go to keep the body improving. However I would suggest that you try and add a session of weights to this as eventually bodyweight only exercises can be a little bit limiting after a while. Some bootcamps do bring along equipment like Bulgarian bags and jumps and steps and do a circuit style session. I love doing circuit classes as I can really get the clients hot and sweaty and really out of breath.

    Smoothies are great. especially if you are in a rush. as long as they are not too fruit intensive. I have a smoothie with milk, protein powder and 1/2 a banana and a small number of walnuts. I use this just after a weight session. I always think the best way to judge is, if this was not in a drink would I be able to eat this and still stay on my diet?

  • Thanks for that Keith, the boot camp is mainly circuit training with one session box fit. I enjoy most of the sessions and i do go away sweaty. I still have a long way to go, but i think finding the boot camp was the best thing for me, as with the gym i was not always sure what I was doing, and "paped" about a lot, where as the boot camp you just get on with it!

  • Yes. I work in a gym and I try my best to help people out and I see a lot of people working incorrectly. A lot of ladies just come to my classes and I try and encourage them to lift the weights! But they are not sure what to do and they don't always want to work with a PT. Box fit is GREAT, especially if you are having a crappy day, TAKE THAT!!

  • Hi PTkeith.

    Exactly how effective is swimming as an exercise. What areas of the body benefits from this activity. Thanking you in advance.

  • Swimming is one of the best exercises there are. Especially if you are overweight. The reason for this is that there is no direct stress on your joints. If you went for a run and you were carrying a extra bit of baggage this will go directly to causing stress on you knees, hips and ankles. In the water there is no problem as the water supports your weight. However I stress again you do have to do swimming to try and get out of breath. Try and swim part of the length at full speed to get the old ticker moving. I used to be a member at Virgin and would see people going up and down barely breaking a sweat. they would be doing this for 30 minutes. I would go in sprint a length, slow a length. Do this for 10 minutes and you can barely breathe. Swimming, lets say the Breast stroke, will hit your shoulders as you pull through the water, you knees and hips as you do the frog bit with your legs and your core which is keeping it all in balance and best of all your heart as it tries to keep up!! If you can do more energetic moves like the front crawl or butterfly this really will kick it up a gear and put much more stress on your legs and shoulders. Hope this helps?

  • Thanks for the response PTKeith. I am preparing for a 65 mile non-stop charity walk in June and it was mentioned I should do some upper body strengthening. I am in the obese catagory at present but have lost 18lbs so far this year. I expect to be in the overweight category sometime in April and close to healthy weight in June. The walking helps but chiefly it is about calorie consumption and the right ones at that.

  • Hi pt Keith my husband is cycling to loose weight as well as dieting he would like to know what you think about reducing weight through cycling many thanks.

  • Hey. Cycling IMHO is one of the best cardiovascular workouts around and a fantastic exercise. It puts less strain on your joints than running or using a cross trainer. Start off gently choose routes that are mostly flat and try and keep a steady pace. Maybe half an hour. Then slowly increase the intensity as you get fitter adding a incline or two then increase more by finding roads where you can sprint. Three things I would recommend.

    1. Good cycle shorts. Saddle a soreness can ruin a ride. Get a pair from a proper shop like Evans or Wiggle.

    2. A cycle computer. These clip onto handlebars and tell you how fast and how far you went.

    3. Good cycling gloves. Really do protect your hands.

  • Hi Keith thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question it was very much appreciated.

  • Hi Keith, Im 60 and have not exercised for 15 years. Im 3 1/2 stone overweight and have low back pain because of a lumbarised S1 (in effect, an extra vertebra). I tried couch to 5k and swimming but jogging and Breaststroke legs give me back pain. What exercise would you recommend I start with to get my core muscles going again?

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