“How to Make Exercise Work for you” by Oliver Harte-Stockwell 

Weight Loss 

The key to effective lasting weight loss is to make your body efficient at using the fuel you put in it.  Weight loss requires that we burn off more calories than we consume, and that we sustain good use of our muscles.  The amount of muscle we possess directly impacts on our metabolism.  More muscle mean’s a higher metabolism, and a greater calorie burn even at rest.  This needn’t be large bulky muscle either but lean compact muscle that we’d associate with the word toned.   

In order to build muscle and sustain the quality muscle we already possess, resistance (or weight) training is essential.  For most people I recommend using resistance bands, dumbbells, and body weighted exercises such as push-ups, dips, chin-ups, squats and lunges – all of which target a large number of muscles at one time. 

Resistance exercises that target many muscles at once are great for elevating the heart rate adequately to contribute to the immediate burning of excess body fat.  High repetitions and moving swiftly from one exercise to the next (circuit training) is ideal for both training your muscles and your heart and lungs (cardio system).   

Cardiovascular exercises that allow you to sustain an elevated heart rate for a prolonged period such as fast walking, running, cycling or using the X-trainer machine are important for actual weight loss calorie burn.  In order to lose weight it is commonly prescribed that we should sustain a heart rate of 60-65% of our maximum heart rate (the fat burning zone) for a period of at least 20 minutes at a time.  

Training in the fat burning zone is reasonably low in intensity and the body burns a higher percentage of fat this way.  This lower intensity training is also perfect for a beginner.  However, while training in this fashion is sound advice, you burn a higher number of overall calories working at a higher intensity.  I recommend varying your workouts to accommodate longer low intensity (fat burning zone) exercise and shorter bursts of high intensity training at 80-85% maximum heart rate.  Interval training is a good way to incorporate high intensity.  

Burning more calories than we consume requires that we monitor our consumption levels too.  Cutting back on alcohol (empty non nutritional calories), and junk foods (high fat non nutritional calories) are common changes many people can make to lower their overall calorie intake.  Avoid eating late night snacks since activity levels will likely be a lot lower after consumption, and choose the right type of carbs as part of a balanced diet – those with a low Glycemic Index.  Carbohydrates are foods which, when fully digested increase the level of blood sugar, a good source of energy for both activity and mental processes.  However, some carb rich foods such as white bread, white pasta, cakes, sweets, and biscuits rapidly increase blood sugar levels to a point which saturates the blood with a readily available source of energy, too much so that any excess energy is converted into fat.  I recommend healthier forms of carbs, including fruit and veg, breakfast cereals (based on oats, barley and bran), wholemeal pasta, porridge oats, granary bread, Basmati or Doongara rice and other more naturally created carbs. While these too increase blood sugar levels, there is a longer process of digestion, so the rise in blood sugar levels is a lot less steep and the energy gained from these foods is less likely to be stored as fat.


Muscle Mass and Tone 

As mentioned above, Resistance training will increase muscle mass, muscle size and tone.  The most important aspects of resistance training are technique, intensity and number of repetitions.  Each exercise has a plane of movement (‘a repetition’). Correct technique and accuracy of each individual repetition ensures that we build muscle, tone and strength safely and efficiently.  The intensity of each repetition and a group of reps (‘a set’) should be relative to the number of repetitions we are aiming to achieve.  To achieve muscle tone we should aim to achieve a higher number of reps within a set (e.g. 15-20 reps) and the intensity or amount of weight/resistance we work with should exhaust your muscle/s within the designated repetition range – whilst sustaining accurate form and technique.  To achieve muscle size we should aim to achieve a lower repetition set (e.g. 6-10 reps), again using enough weight to challenge your technique over the full set.  

Strong Core and Flatter Stomach 

It’s important to train the abdominal muscles with a variety of exercises in order to target them fully.  Some exercises will prominently target the upper abdominals, and others the lower etc.  Using exercises that challenge your balance will force a deeper use of the abdomen and surrounding core muscles including the Obliques (side muscles).  Avoid using equipment such as an Ab Cradle and instead focus on Stability Ball and Mat exercises. 

Here are a few exercises that’ll tighten your tummy muscles and build a strong core. 

Sit-Ups (seated) on stability ball

Supine Lying Straight Leg Raises

Front Bridge Hold

Side Bridge Hold Lifts

Abdominal Rolls on stability ball

Corkscrews with stability ball


Abdominal Crunches 

I recommend training the core muscles in short circuits, which means working around a loop of exercises and completing a number of laps of this loop.  Try picking three exercises from the list and completing a 3 lap circuit.  Vary your exercises every few weeks to sustain the challenge.  Success in exercise is not being able to complete your workout easily; it’s being able to challenge your muscles adequately enough that they’ll grow stronger.  

These exercises will tighten and flatten your stomach; however you’ll need to combine these with a balanced diet and a healthy low body fat percentage to make your strong abdomen more visible.  



Article by

Oliver Harte-Stockwell (Personal Trainer)

07932 120 777