Asking our Personal Trainers your hottest gym questions

by Virgin Active Personal Trainers on Sunday 19 November 2023

6 min read

Whether you're an expert gym-goer or just starting on your fitness journey, we all have questions that relate to our specific goals, doubts, and curiosities. So, we’ve gathered some of the hottest questions around fitness, wellness, and nutrition and asked five of our Personal Trainers their professional opinion and advice.

Q1 - 'Will I Get Buff Lifting Weights?'

Kerry Alderman - @pinkptaus 

The short answer - no. It’s a common misconception and the best way to debunk this is to look at what it actually take to 'bulk up'.

The best rep range to maximise hypertrophy (muscle growth) is approximately 5-8 repetitions, with 3-5 sets. Muscle is built in recovery, so a minimum of 48 hours should be left between training sessions of a particular muscle group. High levels of protein (approximately 1.6 to 2.2g/kg body weight) are necessary to promote this recovery and therefore growth.

Sleep plays a crucial role here, as your body produces hormones during this time to help rebuild damaged muscle tissue and stimulate new muscle fibre production. And none of this creates quick results - it takes months to even years of consistent routine to see major muscle growth.

Seems like a lot to think about right? Those who are 'buff' put a lot of time and energy into their planning, training, diet, sleep and lifestyle choices to ensure they get the results they want. You won’t become buff without intention as there are far too many factors at play.

What will weight training do for you? Weights are a great way to improve functional movement patterns, increase metabolism, improve sleep quality, stabilise joints and improve bone density thereby decreasing risk of injury, improve posture and balance, and the list just goes on and on.

So please, never feel scared to integrate weights into your workouts, you can strengthen your muscles without looking like a bodybuilder. Always know you can ask our trainers if you have concerns. And finally, just have fun with it!


Q2 - 'Do I need to warm up before working out?'

Giovanni Martino - @giovannimartin0

Yes! It's important to move your body in preparation for the session ahead. By warming up before working out, especially if you plan to have an intense workout session, you will reduce your risk of injury, prepare muscle and mobility function, and mentally shift your mindset from 'busy' to 'in the zone'.

How you warm up will differ depending on what kind of session you plan on having. Due to this, one size does not fit all when it comes to your warm up.

Though it isn't bad to warm up on a bike or treadmill before, for example, a heavy leg session, I would suggest to combine the cardio machines with targeted, dynamic mobility exercises. After this, use the weights or machines that you plan to use in your session, however, drop the weight roughly 30%-40% of your working weight and increase the rep range until you feel warm and ready.

With different styles of training comes a different styles of warming up. For example, I prefer hypertrophy training, where I focus on muscle growth, utilising weights and resistance. If this is how you like to train, start your warm up by attacking the weights at 20%-25% of your working weight. Aim for a higher rep range (10-15 reps) with medium-paced tempo. Or, even try slow it down dramatically and work on your mind-muscle connection to really get into the zone.

If weight training isn't your thing, you can utilise resistance training to warm your muscles and prepare them for the workout to come. Additionally, mobility training is an excellent way to contract your muscles and get the blood pumping. And if you're a Yogi, you'll probably love this one. Follow this with 3-5 minutes of your first planned cardio exercise at 50% of your intended workout pace.

Overall, the way you warm up should compliment your planned workout. Start testing new ways to warm up your body and you will eventually find a style that works best for you.


Q3 - 'I’m eating well and exercising regularly, why is my weight still the same?'

Emily Mazzitelli - @mazzfitt

To lose weight effectively, you must address several key factors.  

Firstly, it is important to understand the laws of energy balance. To lose weight, you must ensure you're in a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit means you consume less calories than you burn. By eating a healthy, well-round diet and exercising regularly is a great start (go you!), although these alone cannot guarantee you’re in a deficit. Did you know, that only 10-30% of daily energy expenditure comes from exercise?

Remember the saying, 'you can't out-train a bad diet' - it's true. There is no miracle diet allows you to overeat and lose weight. To avoid the confusion, I suggest to track your calorie intake. This will help you gauge how much you're actually consuming and see if there are areas where you can amend. 

It's also very important not to consistently judge your progress only by what the numbers say on the scale. Just because your weight hasn’t changed, does not mean your body composition hasn’t - you may have lost body fat but gained muscle. Sometimes, you can even look leaner and the number on the scale won’t reflect that. Scale weight isn't the only measure of progress. I suggest to utilise other tools such as clothing fit and progress photos to track progress.

It's also important to remember that working out and eating a well-balanced diet is great for your physical health, but even if you are not seeing results as fast as you like, you're doing wonders for your mental wellbeing and long-term health. Lastly, be patient. Results take time, often months. Overtime, with consistency will come results, whatever your goals are. Don't give up and keep working hard!


Q4 - 'What type of exercise should I do to gain muscle?'

Jordan Van Buuren - @coach.jvb

Building muscle isn't solely a product of your efforts in the gym; your dietary choices and sleep patterns also play a significant role. For optimal results, the gym will become your best friend while achieving your fitness goals. Here, you'll find a compilation of effective exercises that have proven beneficial for both my clients and me in our pursuit of muscle development and gains.

Leg extension/curl

The leg extension/curl exercise may seem quite basic, and you might be thinking, "Can't anyone do this on a machine?" You're absolutely correct. Isolation exercises are incredible for muscle gain and growth. The primary advantage of gym machines is their ability to isolate a specific muscle group, eliminating the need for balance or involving multiple joints. This ensures all your energy and efforts are directly channeled into the targeted muscle.

Incline dumbbell bench press

Want to achieve chest activation while also getting a shoulder workout? Incline dumbbell bench press offers the perfect solution to not only targeting your chest/pecs, but your delts, biceps AND triceps. Give it a go!

Bulgarian split squats/walking lunges

Everyone’s favourite. This might be the best glute/quad growing exercise on the planet. The isolation and activation of both muscle groups are off the charts. These exercises might put you to the test but guaranteed they are one of the best hypertrophy exercises you can find to build muscle and strength in your legs.

If you're goal is to gain muscle, give these three exercises a test run in your next gym session. Try a set of each for near failure (as many reps as you can before you cannot lift anymore) and watch yourself become the next Arnold! Good luck.


Q5 - 'What should I eat before and after my workouts?'

Lucas Pereira - @lucasescarcello

Pre-and-post-workout nutrition can vary depending on your fitness goals. Here's a concise breakdown -

What to eat before a workout?

Proper pre-workout nutrition helps fuel your workouts, improving performance and reducing the risk of muscle breakdown. If we want to talk directly to our fitness goals, then yes, the choice of foods may vary. Weight loss may require a balance of carbs and protein, while muscle gain might involve a bit more protein.

Carbohydrates

Consuming carbohydrates before exercise provides readily available energy for your muscles. It's especially important for endurance activities. Examples include whole grain toast, oatmeal, or fruits.

Protein

Protein can help with muscle preservation and growth. This is important, especially if your goal is to gain muscle. Consider options like Greek yogurt, a protein shake/bar, or a small serving of lean meat.

Hydration

Pre-workout, ensure you're adequately hydrated. Dehydration can impact your performance. If you plan to have an intense, long session, I suggest drinking a sports drink.


What to eat after a workout?

Post-workout nutrition aids in muscle recovery and refuelling your body for the next session. Based on your fitness goals, adjust protein and carb intake accordingly. For example, for weight loss, you might eat smaller portions, compared to muscle gain goals, where you will benefit from slightly more protein and carbs. 

Protein

After a workout, protein is crucial for muscle repair and growth. For something easy and quick, a protein shake is always a great option. Later, you can add in lean meat, or plant-based sources like tofu for optimal protein intake. It is suggested to consume protein within 30minutes after a workout.

Carbohydrates

Glycogen stores is a form of glucose, which is an energy source for our bodies. These decline from physical activity, particularly after a strenuous workout. So, how do we replenish glycogen stores? Carbs. Try brown rice, quinoa, or sweet potatoes as good carbohydrate replenishment options.

Hydration

You'll definitely need to hydrate to replace fluids lost from sweating during your workout. Simple - water! Or you can try a combination of water and electrolyte-rich beverages.

Individual needs vary, so it's wise to consult a nutritionist or dietitian for personalised recommendations.


Every fitness journey is unique and your wellness vary from person to person. If you need help to navigate the often-complex world of fitness, providing guidance, support, and knowledge in order to achieve your goals – our Personal Trainers are here for you. With customised programs, you can ensure you're making the most out of your fitness journey.

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