Squatting to a firmer butt and better knees

The squat is the king of lower body exercises, primed to firm the thighs and lift the cut of the glutes. If there is one exercise that will make you look great in those skinny jeans, or make your legs look slender in heels – it’s squats. But unfortunately there are so many myths and misconceptions about that squat that most people do not perform them anymore, or if they do squat they do it leaning into a Swiss ball that is against a wall or on a Smith machine, scared not to let the knees go forward of the toes as that is bad for the knees – what a load of BS!

Here are the most common myths about the squat:

• The knees shouldn’t go forward of the toes
• The thighs shouldn’t go below parallel
• The smith machine squat is safer than the free squat
• Swiss ball squats are safer then free squats

This is all nonsense. There is very little research to show squats are bad for the knees. This myth came about from a flawed and biased study conducted by Dr Karl Klein in 1961. Contrary to this, other studies have disproved Dr Klein’s findings. For instance, other researchers have found that both the deep squat (where the knees go forward of the toes and the thighs go below parallel) were not detrimental to knee stability; that basketball players and distance runners (who didn’t squat properly) had poorer knee stability compared to power lifters (who perform the deep squat often). Most importantly some research has shown that there was no knee instability found in athletes who used the squat exercise at 130%-200% of body weight twice a week as a part of their off-season training program. Clearly performing the squat, in its true form of bending the knees into the deep position, where the thighs go below parallel and the knees are forward over the toes is not detrimental to knee health. Not only this, but the full squat improves strength through range of movement giving you firm tighter legs. Dr Mark Rippetoe explains that the squat is an excellent exercise for development of the quads, hamstrings, glutes and low back. The deep squat best accomplishes this and encourages co-activation of the quads, hamstring and adductors to stabilise the knee, but also to firm up those muscles to make you look great in skinny jeans.

In fact performing the bastardised version of the squat with a Swiss ball or in a smith machine or just squatting to above parallel is actually bad for the knees and will not make you look as good in those skinny jeans. The half squat shortens the piriformis, a muscle deep in the buttocks that can squash the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica. In the half squat the ligaments that stabilise the knee are lax, whereas they are taught in the full squat, thus the half squat destabilises the knee. The half squat encourages strong quads but weak hamstrings which can be devastating for your cruciate ligaments (if you ski and don’t want to blow your cruciates – don’t do half squats with a Swiss ball or on a Smith machine). Plus much heavier loads are often used in the half squat that can overload the spine.

You should not squat if you have poor technique, are too weak or have poor flexibility to descend into the bottom position of the full squat. You may need to hire a trainer (who knows what he/she is talking about) to show you how to squat properly. Many other exercises can be used instead to build up strength and flexibility to prepare you for the squat. Read my article “Train your legs to lift your butt and tone your thighs” to learn how to use unilateral leg exercises to firm and tone your legs and prepare yourself for the squat.

Caution should also be taken as the squat:

• Loads the patella femoral joint
• Loads the posterior cruciate ligament between 30-90 degrees
• May not be indicated for those with osteoarthristis or osteochondral deficit

So squatting may not be the best exercise of choice if you have a patella femoral joint injury, if you are recovering in the acute stages of a PCL injury or if you have severe osteoarthristis or osteochondral deficit. However if you work with a strength coach or personal trainer who knows what they are doing they will be able to rehabilitate your knees so you can squat safely once again.

So unless you are one of the rare but unlucky few who should squat with caution here is a great leg routine including squats that is great for weight loss and for firming up the thigh and bum.


A1. Back squats 6 reps
A2. Walking lunges 12 reps (per leg)
A3. DB squats 25 reps

Rest 2 minutes and repeat. Do 3-4 circuits then curse me for the amount of burn in your bum and thighs and for having sore legs for the next 2 days.

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Breast cancer risk now 1 in 8

In his latest newsletter Patrick Holford highlights research that breast cancer risk for women in the UK has increased; affecting one in every eight women today, up from one in nine a decade ago.

The biggest rise is in the 50 to 69 year-old age group, where instances of the disease have increased by 6% -– but it’s also becoming more prevalent in younger women.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in Britain for women and is linked to exposure to too much oestrogen. However it is not just oestrogen that the body produces but foreign oestrogen from the environment – also known as xenoestrogens. In my new book i have a section on where these powerful cancer inducing agents are found and what to do to avoid them.

The biggest thing you can do to avoid these chemicals is to eat organic food. These oestrogenic chemicals are sprayed on crops often times in combination. To find out more purchase my book from here:


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Train your legs to lift your butt and tone your thighs

Most of you going to the gym are going because you want to lose a little bit of weight and to tone up, especially those problem areas such as the bum and thighs. However, very few of you will know how to train the legs effectively to lift and tone these areas. Training the legs is as art and a science and I’m going to lift the lid on some of the secrets that the fitness models use to have the perfectly tone thighs and round pert butt.

When you are training your legs you need a periodised and progressive plan targeting different muscles of the legs such as the glutes, the quads, the hamstring and the calfs. Your first stage of leg training should focus on unilateral exercises to correct any imbalances in tone and shape between the legs. This is perfect if you have one butt cheek that is slightly less pert than the other, or if the cut of the hamstrings isn’t quite right between sides. Start by focussing on one exercise for the quads and one for the hamstrings, like so:

A1. Dumbbell step up on 30cm box, 3 sets of 15-20 reps, tempo 1010, rest 60 seconds.
A2. Seated hamstring curl, 3 sets of 8-10 reps, tempo 40X0, rest 60 seconds.

Perform 3 sets each of these exercises. For the quads focus on higher reps as the quads can tolerate the burn that you will feel when you perform this exercise. This burn is the build up of lactate that helps you burn fat. The tempo just means the speed of the movement – step up for 1 seconds, and lower yourself to the floor for 1 second. The step up helps to firm and tone the small muscle on the inside of the knee cap. Perform all the prescribed number of reps on one leg before switching legs. You then rest 60 seconds before moving on to the hamstring exercise.

For the hamstring though, lower reps are needed as the make up of the hamstring is suited to more explosive contractions that helps firm and shape them. For this exercise you bend your knees under you as quickly as possible but you straighten your knees back to the start position over 4 seconds. This helps create muscle tension and definition. Perform all the reps and sets for A1 and A2, then move on to the B exercises.

Next you want to perform an exercise to focuses on developing tone throughout the entire quad, whilst performing an exercise that develops the glutes and hamstring together. You might chose the following exercises:

B1. Dumbbell split squat 3 sets of 10-12 reps, tempo 3010, rest 60 seconds.
B2. Romanian dead lift with bar 3 sets of 10-12 reps, tempo 3010, rest 60 seconds.

The split squat is a movement where you stand in a lunge position and bend your front knee as far forward over your toes whilst keeping good technique. Bending your knee into the deep position fully activates the quads and also helps to firm up the glutes and groin on the lead leg, to help lift the butt and slim the inner thigh. Perform 10-12 twelve reps on one leg, before switching to the other leg. The tempo means that you slowly bend your knee in to the deep position over 3 seconds and then push yourself up in 1 second. Rest 60 seconds then go to the next exercise.

The Romanian dead lift helps to firm the butt and strengthen the low back and hamstrings. Stand with your feet just wider than your shoulders holding a 10-20kg bar. Keep your knees very slightly bent and then bend from the hips, sticking your bum out behind you whilst running the bar down your thighs to about knee level. At this point you should feel a strong stretch in your hamstring. This movement should take 3 seconds and be sure to keep your back straight. Then straighten up your hips to the start position in 1 second. Perform 10-12 reps of this after which you rest 60 seconds.

Your final pair of exercises can target the calfs and abs to help give your legs that slender look when you are in heels and to flatten your tummy. These exercises could include:

C1. Single leg calf raise 3 sets of 12-15 reps, tempo 2010, rest 60 seconds.
C2. Abs crunch 3 sets of 12 reps, tempo 2010, rest 60 seconds.

For the calf raise use a step block, standing on it with the ball of your foot. Hold a dumbbell in the same hand as the leg your are training and tuck the other foot in behind your Achilles tendon. Let you heel drop below the level of your toes so you feel a strong stretch in your calf, this should take 2 seconds. Then lift yourself right up on to your toes, this should take 1 second. Perform 12-15 reps, swap sides and rest 60 seconds before moving on to your abs.

To firm up your tummy perform 12 crunches lying on the floor. You should perform this programme twice a week such as on a Monday and Thursday for up to 6 workouts (3 weeks) after that time you need to change your exercises, reps, sets and rest periods to continually firm and sculpt your legs.


A1. Dumbbell step up on 30cm box, 3 sets of 15-20 reps, tempo 1010, rest 60 seconds.
A2. Seated hamstring curl, 3 sets of 8-10 reps, tempo 40X0, rest 60 seconds.
B1. Dumbbell split squat 3 sets of 10-12 reps, tempo 3010, rest 60 seconds.
B2. Romanian dead lift with bar 3 sets of 10-12 reps, tempo 3010, rest 60 seconds.
C1. Single leg calf raise 3 sets of 12-15 reps, tempo 2010, rest 60 seconds.
C2. Abs crunch 3 sets of 12 reps, tempo 2010, rest 60 seconds.

Next it’s time to move on to some squats…

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Avoid gluten

Dr Briffa points out in his blog how people do not have to have coeliac disease to react to gluten. This is an opinion i share and i have also helped many clients with IBS who were not coeliac by removing gluten from their diet.


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Fulham FC goal keeper keeping in shape

Read this re-post from Fulham FC website….


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