Strenght / Gym Training

Hello everyone,

I need help understanding how to progress with my fitness.

I only started regular exercise at the beginning of the year (for the first time in my life!) and joined a running club and did a few sprint triathlons during the summer, finishing with the London Tri Olympic Distance in September.

Since I started training I lost just over 2 stones (am quite tall) AND started to realize a few months back that I NEED TO ADDRESS my weak core which is playing a huge disadvantage in my training.

Also with loosing weight I would like to add some definition to the upper part of my body.

So I know that I could really benefit with Pilates and have found a suitable class which I can attend weekly. But wondered if this is enough to gain some muscle definition or only weights will do?

And if I do weights training is once a week enough?

Im trying to cram a lot of different training on a weekly basis and need to find the most useful and efficient way of doing it.

Thank you in advance image


  • Hi SC,

    Pilates will be VERY good for your core, that's pretty much why it was invented. if you want some muscular definition too (esp upper body which often gets neglected by runners) then you'd need to do regular weights (exercise the same muscle groups at least a couple of times a week). Adaptations will be very slow if you leave it 7 days in between workouts. However, presumably you're less interested in pure bulk, so you don't need to work yourself into the ground with heavy weights. For strength and definition, rather than size/bulk, focus on more repetitions with lighter weights (not too light - you should be able to do somewhere in the region of 15-20 reps with a given weight. If you can do considerably more, then increase the weight until this range is about right).

    There's no one way to workout, so play around with it, and have fun (it's not supposed to be a chore). I'd suggest that compound movements will be best if you're interested in running and tri's. Single movement exercises that isolate a particular muscle or muscle group are very effective on the area under stress, but you need all round strength, you're not (presumably) aiming to have enormous biceps. There are lots of different ways you can do compound weight training, e.g. using kettle balls, using the wire machines at the gym that allow a greater range of movement with the resistance training, doing plyometrics (explosive exercises) will also serve you very well. Play around with it a bit, keep the weights light at first so you don't injure yourself, and if in doubt, ask advice from someone at the gym, either staff or punter, rather than putting your back out.

    Have fun image

  • forgot to mention, since you do triathlons, lots of swimming will give you a pretty sculpted upper body too. you don't see many fat elite swimmers. they have long, lean muscles for a reason. But then again, the elites do HOURS of training every day, and drill after drill after drill, so they're somewhat different to the middle aged lady "dry hair" swimmers you might see down your local pool.

  • Sorry to hijack trhead but what are the best gym exercises to strength legs for longer runs? (1st marathon next year)

  • Squat


    Bench press

    Row/Chin up



  • ah would not have guessed the last two ... why the upper body focus?

  • Your body is a system. Apart from the fact that by not training your upper body (which does not take anything away from the recovery of your lower body -- and therefore does not predjudice your running) you potentially lose out on the ability to correct core* and postural issues, systems don;t like being out of whack. By not training your upper body at all, you will limit how strong you can make your lower body/core.

    *core does not = abs. It refers to all supporting muscles... your shouler complex, for example.

  • ...Also, pilates might be OK for a beginner, but beyond a certain point, no amount of planks and silly-named-contortions will provide your 'core' with the level of strength as say, a heavy set of squats.

  • good facts. thank you.

  • I started a bit of Core work a while ago, I had a hip flexor injury which I found out was largely compounded by Core weakness. I started off by using "planks" and a few different sit ups and that helped to protect it. I work on Core strengh 3 or 4 times a week, just simple stuff that you can do at home - for example to start with I used sets of 10 press ups followed by a 20 second plank and then repeated. I did a similar thing with sit ups and leg lifts although I found sit ups easier so 20 sit ups, 20 second leg lift and so on. Weights will give you a lot of benefit but as you say, you haven't got time to do weights all the time, this other stuff might help in between?

  • SomeOldDog wrote (see)

    ...Also, pilates might be OK for a beginner, but beyond a certain point, no amount of planks and silly-named-contortions will provide your 'core' with the level of strength as say, a heavy set of squats.

    Have you done Pilates SOD ?

  • Yep. Gave it a go for a while. Can't say it's gonna help me deadlift 180kg or squat 140kg though. So what's the point?

    Most people I know who do pilates would struggle to knock out 40 decent press ups in a sinlge set, or plank for 2-3 minutes... and let's be honest, if that's the limit of control over their body, it's no wonder pilates is challenging for them. But beyond a fairly rudimentary level of strength and conditioning, pilates is just a waste of time.

    That is of course my personal opinion and not intended to offend/insult. (On the off chnace you are  apilates instructor, or something!!!)

  • Pilates wont let you deadlift 180kg - but then again why should it ? Completely different things altogether.  If you want to be a weightlifter - train like one. 

    My wife teaches Pilates to an advanced level and some of the things that the advanced classes do are tough. Certainly as tough as you'd need to go for running. 

    Building masses of extra muscle bulk isnt necessary for endurance running - just sprinting. 

    SC - you can get a 6 pack through Pilates - but only if your body fat is low enough to let it show through - thats the tricky bit. 

  • Classic flaw in your arguement. You don't need 'masses of muscle' to be strong. Certainly, to be strong enough to squat and or deadlift at least 1.5x your bodyweight.

    I didn't say pilates would help me/anyone DL or squat heavy weight... which is why I think for most people it's a waste of time.

    What I am saying is...that 'heavy' is a relative concept for everyone, and that a 'heavy' set of squats (whether that be 30kg or 300kg) is likely to challenge your core more, and teach you how to use your core in a fucntional sense, a lot better than wriggling about on the floor with your legs in the air, so to speak.

  • Thanks for your replies but oh so confused image with the debatable is pilates alone good enough??

    I do swim at least once a week so Im starting to see a little definition on my deltoideus, brachioradialis, deltoid and teres (? had to google the names image).

    But there are some areas that I would like to improve and I m not aiming to get a six pack or a great bulk like a body builder but my aims is to

    1* would like to get a definite more sculpted look on the upper body mainly, arms, shoulder etc (this is purely for aesthetic purposes)

    2* pure core strenght (this are a necessity)

    I dont want to find exercises that I can do at home as just cant and wont. 

    Now seems that Pilates is not good enough image or is it? So does it mean that I have to do gym for both core and upper body definition?

    Im really confused please help!

  • I think you're missing my point:

    Pilates might be useful for you, if you have absolutely zero base conditioning or core strength.

    If you have a decent level of strength and conditioning, it's time to graduate to from the foam mat in front of your TV, to the squat rack in your garage.

    Though personally, I'd skip the first step.

  • OK SOL I dont know what you mean by base conditioning as I am new to training.


    I run twice a week, swim once at week, and cycle once a week (at least). I m making good fast progress considering I only been training under a year.

    I have weak core.

    I dont exercise in front of telly in fact I barely watch any telly. I dont know if you have a stereotype woman exercising in your mind, with mascara and lipstick on and singing when working out, but that's not me image

    I like a training schedule (not if and when . garage, sitting room etc) and want to do it with some form of guidance that will push me and check my posture while Im doing it as we all know you can do the same exercise 1000 wrong you have jsut waisted your time.

    So for the enth time my question is and apologies if I was not clear enough image:

    1* Will Pilates alone address my core issue - PS I do not want my husband to be able to jump on my stomach while I tense

    2* Will Pilates give me visible (but not bulk or  6 pack) upper body definition?
    If the answet to this question is NO go to question 3

    3* Will GYM exercise once a week give me definition? (wont be able to go more than once a week with all the rest going on)

    And while we are at it...

    If GYM once a week WILL give me definition can I get same or better core strenght by using GYM rathe than Pilates??

    Phew image Thank you !


  • I tell you what though, you can't beat getting out in the snow carrying tree trunks like in Rocky IV.

  • Chill out! I'm not sterotyping anyone... except pilates practionersimage (and even then only in jest).

    Answering your questions in turn:

    1. In my opinion, no. In the opinion of the other guy in this thread, yes. So you can either pick whosever arguement is more persuasive to you, or trial both and see. One thing worth bearing in mind is that you don't need to go to a gym to squat. A set of dumb bells or kettle bells can be picked up very cheaply and used at home.

    2. No. Neither will the gym.

    3. Again no. You level of muscular definition is a function of what you eat -- and NOTHING else. That is, your bodyfat needs to be low enough to see what's underneath it. Fat people do pilates. Fat people go to the gym. Fat people might be good at either or both or those activites. BUT, fat people do not have visible abs. Because they're fat.

    It seems like your body fat is important to you (it is to me too, I like having abs). Get a book called the Paleo Solution. Don't take it too seriously... It's not the be and end all, but it's a good start.

  • My wife has coached one of her students who qualified for the Age Group Worlds this year - clearly she's done shed loads of Running, Swimming and Biking, but the Pilates has brought her back from a back injury and at the beginning of the year she wasnt even running. 

    Doing Pilates just once a week isnt enough TBH and I agree with SOD  about the bodyfat as I said before. 

    You do need how to do the moves properly though - so certainly a class is important to begin with. Once you're confident - practice at home or get a 1 to 1 booked and you'll get a custom set of exercises to do with that. 

  • Sorry I should have added a minor detail lol

    One of the reasons and causes of my weak core is other than a couple of pregnancies one with epidural, I suffered a very bad slipped disk in 2007 which took me a year just to walk unaided (without a stick and without painkillers).

    Hence my core weakness. My doctor told me to take up swimming and never take up running. Instead I rebelled, and here I am today. although my back can still be an issue hence getting to point of finally addressing it properly. ( I thought that just getting fit would do, but obviously is not enough). Im 38 yo if it's of any help and In NOT overweight. I think I fall in the healty range 5.11 and 11.10st


    Oh and no Im not emotionally attached to my body fat and is not important to me, but I know that you require serious committment, dedication and lifestyle if you want a very trim, sculptured 6 paccked body but this is not what Im trying to achieve.


  • SomeOldDog wrote (see)

    Most people I know who do pilates would struggle to knock out 40 decent press ups in a sinlge set, or plank for 2-3 minutes... and let's be honest, if that's the limit of control over their body, it's no wonder pilates is challenging for them. But beyond a fairly rudimentary level of strength and conditioning, pilates is just a waste of time.

    Eek! People do pilates for all sorts of reasons so it's not surprising many can't do push-ups! I do 100 push-ups in a single set without too much trouble (and every day), but I also do pilates and find it incredibly useful for core strength and posture.

    Slow_coach, I agree with the other posters that doing anything once a week is unlikely to be enough, but I would really recommend sticking with the pilates if you've only got time for EITHER that or the gym, especially given what you say about previous injuries. If you have a decent teacher s/he should be able to make sure you're doing the exercises correctly in a way that protects your spine, and if you ask, s/he should be able to recommend exercises you can do at home in between classes. I don't have the time or money to go to a gym, but I do have 20 minutes to work out each morning mainly using my own body weight (push-ups, pull-ups, leg lifts, crunches) and some small hand weights. I've been doing this for a couple of years and my strength (and muscle definition) has improved massively -- went from no definition at all to the kind of arms I thought 'normal' people didn't have.

  • SOD - have started integrating your exercise suggestions into my gym routine (which has been getting somewhat dull as of late). very excited and enjoying it so far. keep you posted on results. 

  • ok thank you all for your replies image

  • Vicky Yellow wrote (see)

    SOD - have started integrating your exercise suggestions into my gym routine (which has been getting somewhat dull as of late). very excited and enjoying it so far. keep you posted on results. 

    Cool! Best of luck. Do keep us posted.

  • The debate here seems to be between the benefits of pilates and full body exercises like squats deadlifts etc.

    Research shows that exercises like squats and deadlifts do work your core more than pilates based exercises. However everyone is missing the point.

    it is completely irrelevant which exercises work the core more, what matters is which exercises help improve running performance, and help prevent injury. So what of squats activate core more than pilates , unless it trains the core to be stronger when running then it doesnt matter. Just becasue an exercise works a muscle more doesnt mean it will help that muscle to be stronger doing something different.

    The body responds to exercise based of the priciple of specific adaption to imposed demand which basically means he body gets better at ding whatever it is you do with it. So if you squat then the body will get better at squatting. If you do pilates then you get better at doing pilates.

    For an exercise to benefit running it has to be similar to running - it would have to be dynamic, involve the spine moving in three different directions, light weight , high reps , similar joint ranges of movement and body position.


    Unfortunately pilates and heavy squats/ deadlifts  arent that similar to  running so the ycarryover benefit from doing these exercises is little. ( except if you are a sprinter )


    In fact studies have showed that conventional core type exercises have no measurable effect on running performance or injury prevention.

    The American College of SPorts Medicine went as far as recommending that core exercises performed in a vertical position would be far more effective than ones lying down.

    there is a stack of informaiton including videos of far better exercises here

    in terms of exercises like push ups, pull ups etc - in terms of running they are a waste of time ( along with crunches, sit ups, planks leg lifts etc).

    however if those exercises contribute to you losing fat and decreasing overall body weight ( an upper body weight muscle increase still needs to be carried around by the legs - goof long distance runners are skiny up top for a reason) then they may be a good thing to do. Any exercise that help you lose weight will inadvertantly help make you a faster runner.


    Of course if you are going to make the time to do some exercises you may as well do ones that will help your running 

    here are some example exercises and discussion on what is best to do for resistance training for runners 

  • Anyone help with getting rid of belly fat? Would like a nice ladies six pack, but this needs to complement my running speed as this again I'm struggling with. But could be my jelly belly and thunder thighs please help!

    I run Monday, Tuesda, Thursday, Saturday park run & long run.

    I think my diet is healthy.

    Breakfast: porridge with skim milk

    Dinner: Butty on brown bread, chicken or beetroot or cheese or salad

    Tea: Meal, vegi's and either rice, pasta, potato's

    I drink 2 litres water a day, 4 to 5 cups green tea. Snack on fruit morning and afternoon.

    Can any one help please imageimage


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