Never be an ego lifter: personal trainers’ 12 secrets of successful exercise

Free advice from fitness professionals? Whats not to like? Heres how to develop harder, smarter and cheaper, whether youre a novice or an old hand

Is there any group of people better qualified to comment on fitness habits than personal trainers? From their vantage point on gym floors in all regions of the country, they assure our grunting, sweating exertion up close: the peacocking bros, the men who don’t wipe down the machines when they are done- and that woman on the treadmill who is never off her phone. But what common blunders do they witness, day in day out? Which fitness myths genuinely wind them up? And can they answer the burning exercise-related question of our times: is Noel Edmonds right to claim that stretching is a con devised by personal trainers?

In the land of the gym machines, technique is king

The No 1 gripe from all the personal trainers I spoke to was the same: poor technique- not lifting weights correctly, leaning forwards into your squat, or busting out the repeatings, but with the incorrect posture and kind. Not merely does bad technique hazard causing injury, but it is often pointless exertion: your body won’t reap any benefits.

Learn to do things properly, and then slow down.” I’d rather people did two repeats of a full push-up than 10 repeatings on their knees ,” says Jermaine Johnson, a personal trainer with the gym chain Blok.” They’re going to shock their muscles and increase their strength. The body adapts to movement patterns, so the more you do it, the better you’re going to get. I wish people is well known, and worked for quality over sum .”

Fitness classes can be great- but tread with caution

When it comes to poor form, part of the problem may be our growing fondness for fitness classes. Although class can be a great way to get into exercise- and more motivating than working out on your own- often, teachers don’t demonstrate the exercises for more than a few seconds.

If you are a newbie, “its easy” to get things wrong.” If you’re a novice in a class and you’re doing a deadlift with the incorrect technique, you’re going to be in bed for three days with a sore back ,” says the personal trainer Bradley Simmonds. He advises novices to arrive before classes start, and pull the instructors aside for a chat.” Ask your instructor:’ Can you show me the proper technique ?’- and then you’re good to go .”

Women, lifting weights won’t turn you into Hulk Hogan

Of all the myths that persist around workout, this is one of the most damaging, as it omits girls from the health benefits of strength training. Lifting weights will help you to stay strong and active into old age, and can reduce your likelihood of having back pain or bone fractures in later life. But many women still avoid the free-weights section because they are concerned that the odd bicep curl will turn them into Hulk Hogan.” I want more females to know that weights won’t bulk them ,” says Johnson.” It’s a mistake to assume that, after a few weight conferences, you’re going to wake up looking like a bodybuilder. It takes a very long time to build up muscle .”

Don’t feel nervous about venturing into the weights segments.” For women, or people from the LGBTQ community, it can be scary even to walk into the section of the gym that has all the weights in it for the first time ,” says Melanie Stride, a personaltrainer and lifting specialist. She encourages women to educate themselves about the benefits of strength training, and get lifting.” Lifting culture has been seen as very male, very straight and very young. One of the biggest things I do is reassure people outside of those groups that they can do this, in environmental issues where they feel safe, accepted and part of a community .”

Woman
Illustration: Lorenzo Gritti/ The Guardian

You may not be trying hard enough

” I have a friend who used to go to the gym and sit on the motorcycle and watch Diagnosis: Murder ,” says Sarah Overall, a fitness and nutrition expert.” If you can concentrate on that, you probably need to do a bit more work .” How do you know if you’re working hard enough?” You need to get yourself to a point where you’re feeling breathless, and you can answer questions, but you can’t have a whole conversation ,” she says.

The odd jog isn’t enough. The NHS advises adults aged 19 to 64 to do 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, in addition to twice-weekly strength exerts, to stay healthy.” Just having a little stroll around the park isn’t going to do it ,” Overall says.

Push yourself. Are you doing as many burpees as you maybe can during your regular HIIT( high-intensity interval develop) class? Working to failure- meaning that you exercise to the point of exhaustion- will take your body to the next level, says Johnson.” If you feel a decide was easy, find the phase where you’re working to failure- that’s when you know your body is working .”

You don’t need imagination gear or boutique-gym membership

Don’t be fooled by the yoga bunnies wearing expensive brands on Instagram: you don’t need sweat-wicking fibers or seamless running tights to exert. A T-shirt, a supportive sports bra( if you are female) and a pair of leggings or shorts will be fine. What you shouldn’t skimp on, says Overall, are decent trainers.” Go to a specialist shop, walk on a treadmill so they can look at your gait, and make sure the shoes fit you properly. If you’re not wearing the correct footwear, that can cause injury .”

Even if you cannot afford to join a gym, there is no reason not to get moving.” If you have space in your home or garden, or in a nearby park, that’s all you need ,” says Hannah Lewin, a personal trainer who works exclusively with women. She points to all the fitness content available on YouTube or Instagram, as well as free apps such as Couch to 5K, or Virgin’s free marathon training plans. If you can afford to join a gym, there is usually a personal trainer on the floor who will demonstrate the basic exercises.

Leave your ego in the locker-room

You know the type- an ego lifter struts about the weights section, loudly grunting as they grapple with the biggest weight they can manage.” There’s always going to be the ego lifters ,” says the personal trainer and disability specialist Rob Ghahremani.” Every gym has one. We’ve got an moronic in ours who sprayings chalk utterly everywhere. For the bench press, he’ll load the bar up with 150 kilos and move the weight about as far as I can walk- which isn’t very far .”( Ghahremani use a wheelchair .)

Not only are ego lifters vexing, but they may be causing themselves damage.” Their technique is often very bad ,” says Johnson.” Because they want to look and feel as if they’re working hard, they set maximum stress not only on their muscles, but on their whole body and joints .” It’s also unnecessary: heavier weights aren’t always best.” You can train with a lighter weight and slow down the tempo, concentrating on your range of motion, and you’ll feel it more than doing bad reps with a heavy weight .”

Man
Illustration: Lorenzo Gritti/ The Guardian

Find your real motivation

In gyms, as in life, it is a good idea to ask yourself: what am I doing here?” Everyone should be able to have their own goals for their own bodies ,” says Stride.” If you want to get actually lean and shredded, I’m not going to cast judgment on that goal. But there are so many other reasons to exert, whether it’s for your physical or psychological health .”

Overall believes you should train for the body you have , not the body you think you should have.” You can’t really change your basic shape ,” she says.” If you’re a natural pear shape, you are always going to be a pear shape. You can reduce your body fat, to make yourself appear smaller, but your bottom will still be in the same proportion to your top .”

Be realistic about what exercising alone can achieve

If you want to lose weight, exert isn’t enough – you also need to look at diet. We tend to overestimate the calories we burn in the gym; it is the reason female marathon runners often gain weight while develop. Simmonds points out that many people run really hard in the gym, but then think they can eat what they like:” They give 100% endeavour, and then ruin it by having a massive dinner .”

Don’t merely smash the cardio.” Throwing yourself into the weights room is where you’re going to get the most effective outcomes ,” says Johnson. And if the number on the scales remains the same, don’t be disheartened.” Clients sometimes complain they haven’t lost weight, but they’ve actually lost fat and replaced it with muscle .”

Gels and protein powders are best left to the professionals

Beware the siren call of expensive energy drinks and gels.” Unless you’re doing more than 90 minutes of endurance work, you do not need an energy beverage ,” says Overall. The same goes for protein powders, unless you are actively bodybuilding.

Reject the guff and nonsense of diet culture.” I work on an anti-diet basis ,” says Lewin.” That doesn’t mean I am anti-fat loss, if that’s what you want. But I’m anti-nonsense-products, such as fad teas, tablets and raspberry ketones- anything that makes a profit, rather than promoting long-term health .”

Don’t do the same thing week-in, week-out

When it comes to fitness, routine is the enemy of progress.” The body responds to progressive overload ,” says Stride,” so unless you progressively overload a movement, you’re never going to move forward. If you don’t ever increase your weights, and you carry on doing the same sets, week in, week out, you’ll maintain your fitness, but you won’t make progress .”

To get the best out of exercise, you need to do a mixture of cardio, strength and flexibility work.” Cardio is going to induce you live longer, and construct your heart more efficient ,” says Ghahremani.” Weight training will strengthen your muscles and lead to stable muscle growth. And flexibility work will stop you putting your back away get out of bed in the morning. All three are equally important to a good, long, healthy life .”

Go at your own pace, and don’t be afraid

If you have the money to hire a personal trainer, be upfront with them about your dreads.” If you don’t want to work out until you’re sick, you should never be in a position where you have to do that ,” says Overall.” Be honest- if you’re really scared and think this is going to half-kill you, share that with the person training you .”

Disabled people shouldn’t underestimate how much they can do.” Often, they tell themselves they can’t do certain things ,” Ghahremani observes,” and they place more limits on themselves than they are able to. Boundary can be pushed! You’ve just got to be a bit creative about it .”

If you are older and have health problems, speak to your GP before throwing yourself into fitness, advises Richard Miller , who are specialized in train the over-5 0s. Look at the capabilities of your body, and find exert that works for you.” A plenty of the guys I watch have knackered knees; cycling is low-impact, and even better is swimming, which is great body conditioning, but also low impact for people with joint or knee issues .”

Don’t listen to Noel Edmond s

Finally, the most urgent fitness question of all: is stretching truly a scam invented by personal trainers? Lewin certainly doesn’t think so.” Although sometimes overlooked, stretching has many benefits ,” she says,” including increasing flexibility and range of motion and improving posture .” She advises that you incorporate stretching into your warm-up and cool-down routines, to help the body prepare for movement and recover after a workout.

Stride agrees that stretching can be useful, but only if you are doing it right: waving your arms about while standing stock-still isn’t going to do much.” Static stretching is rarely necessary or an effective use of exercise time for the majority of clients ,” she says.” Instead, dynamic( moving) stretchings are a great way to warm up, with static holds used only sparingly to access some additional scope of motion prior to training .”

The verdict is in, then: stretching is not a swindle. But, as Edmonds might find, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Never be an ego lifter: personal trainers’ 12 secrets of successful workout

Free advice from fitness professionals? Whats not to like? Heres how to develop harder, smarter and cheaper, whether youre a novice or an old hand

Is there any group of people better qualified to comment on fitness habits than personal trainers? From their vantage point on gym floors in all regions of the country, they assure our grunting, sweating exertion up close: the peacocking bros, the men who don’t wipe down the machines when they are done- and that female on the treadmill who is never off her phone. But what common mistakes do they witness, day in day out? Which fitness myths truly wind them up? And can they answer the burning exercise-related question of our times: is Noel Edmonds right to claim that stretching is a con fabricated by personal trainers?

In the land of the gym machines, technique is king

The No 1 gripe from all the personal trainers I spoke to was the same: poor technique- not lifting weights correctly, leaning forwards into your squat, or busting out the repetitions, but with the incorrect posture and sort. Not only does bad technique danger causing injury, but it is often pointless exertion: your body won’t reap any benefits.

Learn to do things properly, and then slow down.” I’d rather people did two repeatings of a full push-up than 10 repeats on their knees ,” says Jermaine Johnson, a personal trainer with the gym chain Blok.” They’re going to shock their muscles and increase their strength. The body adapts to movement patterns, so the more you do it, the better you’re going to get. I wish people knew that, and worked for quality over sum .”

Fitness classes can be great- but tread with caution

When it comes to poor form, part of the problem may be our growing fondness for fitness classes. Although classes can be a great way to get into exercise- and more motivating than working out on your own- often, teachers don’t demonstrate the exercises for more than a few seconds.

If you are a newbie, “its easy” to get things wrong.” If you’re a novice in a class and you’re doing a deadlift with the incorrect technique, you’re going to be in bed for three days with a sore back ,” says the personal trainer Bradley Simmonds. He advises beginners to arrive before classes start, and pull their teachers aside for a chat.” Ask your teacher:’ Can you show me the proper technique ?’- and then you’re good to go .”

Women, lifting weights won’t turn you into Hulk Hogan

Of all the myths that persist around exercising, this is one of the most damaging, as it omits girls from the health benefits of strength training. Lifting weights will help you to stay strong and active into old age, and can reduce your likelihood of having back pain or bone fractures in later life. But many women still avoid the free-weights section because they are concerned that the odd bicep curl will turn them into Hulk Hogan.” I want more women to know that weights won’t bulk them ,” says Johnson.” It’s a mistake to assume that, after a few weight sessions, you’re going to wake up looking like a bodybuilder. It takes a very long time to build up muscle .”

Don’t feel nervous about venturing into the weights segments.” For women, or people from the LGBTQ community, it can be scary even to walk into the section of the gym that has all the weights in it for the first time ,” says Melanie Stride, a personaltrainer and lifting specialist. She encourages women to educate themselves about the benefits of strength training, and get lifting.” Lifting culture has been seen as very male, very straight and very young. One of the biggest things I do is reassure people outside of those groups that they can do this, in environmental issues where they feel safe, accepted and part of a community .”

Woman
Illustration: Lorenzo Gritti/ The Guardian

You were not able to be trying hard enough

” I have a friend who used to go to the gym and sit on the motorcycle and watch Diagnosis: Murder ,” says Sarah Overall, a fitness and nutrition expert.” If you can concentrate on that, you probably need to do a bit more work .” How do you know if you’re working hard enough?” You need to get yourself to a phase where you’re feeling breathless, and you can answer questions, but you can’t have a whole conversation ,” she says.

The odd jog isn’t enough. The NHS advises adults aged 19 to 64 to do 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, in addition to twice-weekly strength workouts, to stay healthy.” Just having a little stroll around the park isn’t going to do it ,” Overall says.

Push yourself. Are you doing as many burpees as you perhaps can during your regular HIIT( high-intensity interval educate) class? Working to failure- meaning that you exert to the point of exhaustion- will take your body to the next level, says Johnson.” If you feel a decide was easy, find the phase where you’re working to failure- that’s when you know your body is working .”

You don’t need imagination gear or boutique-gym membership

Don’t be fooled by the yoga bunnies wearing expensive brands on Instagram: you don’t need sweat-wicking fibers or seamless operating tights to exert. A T-shirt, a supportive athletics bra( if you are female) and a pair of leggings or shorts will be fine. What you shouldn’t skimp on, says Overall, are decent trainers.” Go to a specialist shop, walk on a treadmill so they can look at your gait, and make sure the shoes accommodate you properly. If you’re not wearing the correct footwear, that can cause injury .”

Even if you cannot afford to join a gym, there is no reason not to get moving.” If you have space in your house or garden, or in a nearby park, that’s all you need ,” says Hannah Lewin, a personal trainer who works exclusively with women. She points to all the fitness content available on YouTube or Instagram, as well as free apps such as Couch to 5K, or Virgin’s free marathon training schemes. If you can afford to join a gym, there is usually a personal trainer on the floor who will demonstrate the basic exercises.

Leave your ego in the locker-room

You know the type- an ego lifter struts about the weights segment, loudly grunting as they grapple with the biggest weight they can manage.” There’s always going to be the ego lifters ,” says the personal trainer and disability specialist Rob Ghahremani.” Every gym has one. We’ve got an moronic in ours who sprays chalk perfectly everywhere. For the bench press, he’ll load the bar up with 150 kilos and move the weight about as far as I can walk- which isn’t very far .”( Ghahremani utilizes a wheelchair .)

Not merely are ego lifters annoying, but they may be causing themselves damage.” Their technique is often really bad ,” says Johnson.” Because they want to look and feel as if they’re working hard, they set maximum stress not only on their muscles, but on their whole body and joints .” It’s also unnecessary: heavier weights aren’t always best.” You can train with a lighter weight and slow down the tempo, concentrating on your range of movement, and you’ll feel it more than doing bad reps with a heavy weight .”

Man
Illustration: Lorenzo Gritti/ The Guardian

Find your real motivation

In gyms, as in life, it is a good idea to ask yourself: what am I doing here?” Everyone should be able to have their own aims for their body ,” says Stride.” If you want to get really lean and shredded, I’m not going to cast judgment on that goal. But there are so many other reasons to exercise, whether it’s for your physical or psychological health .”

Overall believes you should train for the body you have , not the body you think you should have.” You can’t really alter your basic shape ,” she says.” If you’re a natural pear shape, you are always going to be a pear shape. You can reduce your body fat, to induce yourself seem smaller, but your bottom will still be in the same proportion to your top .”

Be realistic about what workout alone can achieve

If you want to lose weight, exert isn’t enough – you also need to look at diet. We tend to overestimate the calories we burn in the gym; it is the reason female marathon runners often gain weight while develop. Simmonds points out that many people run really hard in the gym, but then think they can eat what they like:” They give 100% attempt, and then ruin it by having a massive snack .”

Don’t merely smash the cardio.” Throwing yourself into the weights room is where you’re going to get the most effective results ,” says Johnson. And if the number on the scales stays the same, don’t be disheartened.” Clients sometimes complain they haven’t lost weight, but they’ve actually lost fat and replaced it with muscle .”

Gels and protein powders are best left to the professionals

Beware the siren call of expensive energy drinkings and gels.” Unless you’re doing more than 90 minutes of endurance run, you do not need an energy beverage ,” says Overall. The same runs for protein powders, unless you are actively bodybuilding.

Reject the guff and nonsense of diet culture.” I work on an anti-diet basis ,” says Lewin.” That doesn’t mean I am anti-fat loss, if that’s what you wishing. But I’m anti-nonsense-products, such as fad teas, tablets and raspberry ketones- anything that makes a profit, rather than promoting long-term health .”

Don’t do the same thing week-in, week-out

When it comes to fitness, routine is the enemy of progress.” The body responds to progressive overload ,” says Stride,” so unless you progressively overload a movement, you’re never going to move forward. If you don’t ever increase your weights, and you carry on doing the same sets, week in, week out, you’ll maintain your fitness, but you won’t make progress .”

To get the best out of exercise, you need to do a mixture of cardio, strength and flexible work.” Cardio is going to induce you live longer, and attain your heart more efficient ,” says Ghahremani.” Weight training will strengthen your muscles and lead to stable muscle growth. And flexibility run will stop you putting your back out getting out of bed in the morning. All three are equally important to a good, long, healthy life .”

Go at your own pace, and don’t be afraid

If you have the money to hire a personal trainer, be upfront with them about your dreads.” If you don’t want to work out until you’re sick, you should never be in a position where you have to do that ,” says Overall.” Be honest- if you’re really scared and think this is going to half-kill you, share that with the person training you .”

Disabled people shouldn’t underestimate how much they can do.” Often, they tell themselves they can’t do certain things ,” Ghahremani finds,” and they place more limits on themselves than they are able to. Boundary can be pushed! You’ve just got to be a bit creative about it .”

If you are older and have health problems, speak to your GP before throwing yourself into fitness, advises Richard Miller , who are specialized in educate the over-5 0s. Look at the capabilities of your body, and find exert that works for you.” A plenty of the guys I watch have knackered knees; cycling is low-impact, and even better is swimming, which is great body conditioning, but also low impact for people with joint or knee issues .”

Don’t listen to Noel Edmond s

Finally, the most urgent fitness question of all: is stretching truly a scam fabricated by personal trainers? Lewin certainly doesn’t think so.” Although sometimes overlooked, stretching has many benefits ,” she says,” including increasing flexibility and range of motion and improving posture .” She advises that you incorporate stretching into your warm-up and cool-down routines, to help the body prepare for movement and recover after a workout.

Stride agrees that stretching can be useful, but only if you are doing it right: waving your arms about while stand stock-still isn’t going to do much.” Static stretching is rarely necessary or an effective use of exercise time for the majority of clients ,” she says.” Instead, dynamic( moving) stretchings are a great way to warm up, with static holds used only sparingly to access some additional range of motion prior to training .”

The verdict is in, then: stretching is not a swindle. But, as Edmonds might observe, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Where machismo meets tiny gold pants: the bodybuilding art of Alix Marie

With her depict Shredded, full of bulge bodies sweating under bright sunlights, the artist lays bare the fascinating, surreal world of inflatable musclemen

As you enter Roman Road Gallery in London’s East End, the noise from a pair of speakers in the vestibule is almost overwhelming: grunts, exhalations and the thud of heavy metal weights landing on the floor. Recorded in a bodybuilder’s gym, this is an introductory soundscape for Alix Marie’s show, Shredded.

” I want the viewer to enter an environment that is immediately uncomfortable, nearly scary ,” says the Paris-born artist, whose run merges photography and statue and tends towards the grotesque.” I have amplified what the novelist Kathy Acker, herself a bodybuilder, called’ the language of the body’ as it undergoes this extreme transformation and essentially breaks down .”

Disturbing
Disturbing and surreal … inflatable body parts and photo vitrines in Shredded. Photograph: Courtesy of Roman Road and the artist ./ Ollie Hammick
In the main gallery, the noise is different but no less relentless. Fan pump air into three inflatable polyester torsos- all bulging biceps, veiny scalp and straining muscle- that stand erect and quivering on a created shelf. As a metaphor for extreme bodybuilding, the pumped-up photo-sculptures are both disturbing and surreal. Likewise the images in the light boxes below, more close-ups of bulging bodies that seem to be sweating under bright spotlights. On closer inspection, they are mounted on shallow vitrines half-filled with liquid. On the opposite wall, cut-out silhouettes of pumped-up bodies are arranged in a row- limbs, chests and necks, thighs as big as tree trunks. The combined effect of the noise and image overload in such a restricted space is claustrophobic, ultra-masculine, virtually intimidating. But also oddly camp.

“Good,” says Alix Marie, chuckling.” Bodybuilding is a performance of extreme virility but, in competitor, the committee is also comprises huge humen virtually naked except for tight gold gasps. For me, the contrast of the machismo and the campness is fascinating. When they perform they become moving statues, as much Auguste Rodin as Arnie Schwarzenegger .”

It was the young Arnie who, in the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron, famously likened the ritual of professional bodybuilding to having sex with a woman:” I am coming day and night. It’s terrific, right … I’m in heaven .” For Alix Marie the fascination was more about the ways in which masculinity is exhibited and performed in extremis in an enclosed, all male world. The bodies that are available in her exhibition are all part of three men she photographed in gyms in Bethnal Green, Ealing and Tottenham.” I used to live opposite the one in Tottenham ,” she says,” After some persuasion, they let me in to their boxing room for a total of five minutes to shoot the model. I guess they didn’t want to freak out the clientele with a female presence .”

Shredded- the term describes someone with extremely low body fat and very well defined muscles- continues Marie’s interest in” body, gender and sculpture .” In the past, she has cast her own body parts in gray concrete and published the images on glass, fabric, paper-mache and PVC. For one present, she draped images of nude torsos on metal scaffolding and, for another, plastic pipes of fluids snaked along the gallery floor, erupting out of sculptures that was like mutant sexual organs straight out of a David Cronenberg movie. She quotes the aberrant film-maker as a prime influence alongside the surrealists. Her most powerfully unsettling work seems to come from a similar source- the realm of the unconscious and irrational, but it is tempered with a consistent formal discipline and a desire to somehow meld two creative practises that do not tend to sit together easily.

” It is challenging to work with photography as sculpture, but it is what has always fascinated me ,” she says,” I never wanted to chose between the eye and the hand. In a way, I want to go inside the photograph, which is, of course, impossible. Also, I need physical contact in the making of the work, but as a big part of the viewer’s experience of it .”

I
I want to go inside the photograph … Recky Abdominal by Alix Marie. Photograph: Courtesy of Roman Road and the artist/ Alix Marie
A small survey of Marie’s work was on show earlier this month at
Photo London. It included a ceramic sculpture in which an image of a human eye was endlessly drenched in absinthe from a perspex fountain.( The tableau refers to a French wedding night tradition in which the groom places an icon of an eye in a bidet used by the bride .) Visitors could kneel and drink from the absinthe fountain if they so wished. In the context of her recent work, it was a user-friendly piece. Across town, in a group show called Apparatus, at Peckham 24, things were more savagely physical with outsize inflated polystyrene sculptures of muscular limbs rotating on a contraption that called to mind a kebab skewer.” I like the idea of the viewer being simultaneously fascinated and repulsed ,” she says.” The surroundings I create are often uncomfortable. They demand a reaction .”

Alix Marie has been one of a generation of young mostly female photographers, including Juno Calypso and Maisie Cousins, whose run explores notions of femininity, eroticism, gender and body image. In contrast to the uninhibited physicality of Cousins’s more sensual close-ups of brightly-lit, glistening bodies, lips and tongues, Marie’s work is often defined by her interest in the grotesque. Fluids, flesh-coloured tubing and rubber sculptures that resemble mutant sexuality aids have all featured in her work. She cites the transgressive writings of Georges Bataille as another bide influence alongside the still-shocking fetishistic doll sculptures of Hans Bellmer.” As a feminist ,” she muses,” I have to ask myself why is he one of my favourite artists ?”

French film, too, is a touchstone. At Photo London, an image published on fabric of male hands buried in female hair rippled just above ground level in the artificial breeze created by a hide fan. It could have been taken from a French nouvelle vague movie.

Olympians
It is a very enclosed world … Olympians by Alix Marie. Photograph: Alix Marie
” I was raised watching a film a day ,” she says of her childhood in Paris. Born in 1993, her mother was a screenwriter and her father a cinema theoretician, historian and lecturer.” They genuinely don’t get what I do, but they are hugely supportive ,” she says.

Alix Marie has lived in London for 11 years, studying fine art at Central Saint Martins before completing an MA in photography at the Royal College of Art. She says:” One of the things that most interests me is the clinical aspect of analogue photography that somehow connects it to medicine- the technicians, the laboratory, the baths, the gloves, the scalpel. For me, it is essentially a laboratory process and I approach it as such, as a place of experimentation and exploration .”

What has she learned from her submersion in the world of extreme bodybuilding?” I don’t think I have ever been in a more self-conscious environment ,” she says.” It’s about seeming strong, about poise and pose. Being rent, as they call it, is increasingly popular, but the bodybuilders still feel they are treated like freaks. It is a very enclosed world .” She pauses for a moment,” I would describe it as being very formal, very repetitive, an activity that lies between science and art .” She breaks into laugh.” Then again, I could just as easily be talking about photography .”

* Shredded is at Roman Road Gallery, London until 2 June.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

With her demonstrate Shredded, full of bulge bodies sweating under bright illuminates, the artist lays bare the fascinating, surreal world of inflatable musclemen

As you enter Roman Road Gallery in London’s East End, the noise from a pair of speakers in the foyer is almost overwhelming: grunts, exhalations and the thud of heavy metal weights landing on the floor. Recorded in a bodybuilder’s gym, this is an introductory soundscape for Alix Marie’s show, Shredded.

” I want the spectator to enter an environment that is immediately uncomfortable, virtually scary ,” says the Paris-born artist, whose run merges photography and statue and tends towards the grotesque.” I have amplified what the novelist Kathy Acker, herself a bodybuilder, called’ the language of the body’ as it undergoes this extreme transformation and essentially breaks down .”

Disturbing
Disturbing and surreal … inflatable body parts and photo vitrines in Shredded. Photograph: Courtesy of Roman Road and the artist ./ Ollie Hammick
In the main gallery, the noise is different but no less relentless. Fans pump air into three inflatable polyester torsos- all bulging biceps, veiny skin and straining muscle- that stand erect and quivering on a created shelf. As a metaphor for extreme bodybuilding, the pumped-up photo-sculptures are both disturbing and surreal. Likewise the images in the light boxes below, more close-ups of bulging bodies that seem to be sweating under bright spotlights. On closer inspection, they are mounted on shallow vitrines half-filled with liquid. On the opposite wall, cut-out silhouettes of pumped-up bodies are arranged in a row- limbs, chests and necks, thighs as big as tree trunks. The combined effect of the noise and image overload in such a confined space is claustrophobic, ultra-masculine, almost intimidating. But also oddly camp.

“Good,” says Alix Marie, giggling.” Bodybuilding is a performance of extreme masculinity but, in competition, the committee is also comprises huge humen virtually naked except for tight gold gasps. For me, the contrast of the machismo and the campness is fascinating. When they perform they become moving sculptures, as much Auguste Rodin as Arnie Schwarzenegger .”

It was the young Arnie who, in the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron, famously likened the ritual of professional bodybuilding to having sexuality with a woman:” I am coming day and night. It’s terrific, right … I’m in heaven .” For Alix Marie the fascination was more about the ways in which masculinity is exhibited and performed in extremis in an enclosed, all male world. The bodies that feature in her exhibition belong to three men she photographed in gyms in Bethnal Green, Ealing and Tottenham.” I used to live opposite the one in Tottenham ,” she says,” After some persuasion, they let me in to their boxing room for a total of five minutes to shoot the model. I guess they didn’t want to freak out the clientele with a female presence .”

Shredded- the word describes person with extremely low body fat and very well defined muscles- continues Marie’s interest in” body, gender and sculpture .” In the past, she has cast her own body parts in gray concrete and printed the images on glass, fabric, paper-mache and PVC. For one display, she draped images of nude torsos on metal scaffolding and, for another, plastic tubes of liquids snaked along the gallery floor, erupting out of statues that was like mutant sexual organs straight out of a David Cronenberg movie. She quotes the aberrant film-maker as a prime influence alongside the surrealists. Her most powerfully unsettling work seems to come from a similar source- the realm of the unconscious and irrational, but it is tempered with a consistent formal discipline and a desire to somehow meld two creative practices that do not tend to sit together easily.

” It is challenging to work with photography as statue, but it is what has always fascinated me ,” she says,” I never wanted to chose between the eye and the hand. In a style, I want to go inside the photograph, which is, of course, impossible. Also, I need physical contact in the making of the run, but as a big part of the viewer’s experience of it .”

I
I want to go inside the photograph … Recky Abdominal by Alix Marie. Photograph: Courtesy of Roman Road and the artist/ Alix Marie
A small survey of Marie’s work was on show earlier this month at
Photo London. It included a ceramic sculpture in which an image of a human eye was continuously drenched in absinthe from a perspex fountain.( The tableau refers to a French wedding night tradition in which the bridegroom places an icon of an eye in a bidet used by the bride .) Visitors could kneel and drink from the absinthe fountain if they so wished. In the context of her recent work, it was a user-friendly piece. Across town, in a group show called Apparatus, at Peckham 24, things were more viciously physical with outsized inflated polystyrene statues of muscular limbs rotating on a contraption that called to mind a kebab skewer.” I like the idea of the viewer being simultaneously fascinated and repulsed ,” she says.” The surroundings I create are often uncomfortable. They demand a reaction .”

Alix Marie is part of a generation of young largely female photographers, including Juno Calypso and Maisie Cousins, whose run explores notions of femininity, eroticism, gender and body image. In contrast to the uninhibited physicality of Cousins’s more sensual close-ups of brightly-lit, glistening bodies, lips and tongues, Marie’s work is often defined by her interest in the grotesque. Fluids, flesh-coloured tubing and rubber sculptures that resemble mutant sexuality assistances have all featured in her work. She cites the transgressive writings of Georges Bataille as another abide influence alongside the still-shocking fetishistic doll statues of Hans Bellmer.” As a feminist ,” she muses,” I have to ask myself why is he one of my favourite artists ?”

French film, too, is a touchstone. At Photo London, an image published on fabric of male hands buried in female hair rippled simply above ground level in the artificial breeze created by a conceal fan. It could have been taken from a French nouvelle vague movie.

Olympians
It is a very enclosed world … Olympians by Alix Marie. Photograph: Alix Marie
” I was raised watching a film a day ,” she says of her childhood in Paris. Born in 1993, her mom was a screenwriter and her father a cinema theoretician, historian and lecturer.” They truly don’t get what I do, but they are hugely supportive ,” she says.

Alix Marie has lived in London for 11 years, studying fine art at Central Saint Martins before completing an MA in photography at the Royal College of Art. She says:” One of the things that most interests me is the clinical aspect of analogue photography that somehow links it to medicine- the technicians, the laboratory, the baths, the gloves, the scalpel. For me, it is essentially a laboratory process and I approach it as such, as a place of experimentation and exploration .”

What has she learned from her submersion in the world of extreme bodybuilding?” I don’t think I have ever been in a more self-conscious environment ,” she says.” It’s about appearing strong, about poise and pose. Being ripped, as they call it, is increasingly popular, but the bodybuilders still feel they are treated like freaks. It is a very enclosed world .” She pauses for a moment,” I would describe it as being very formal, very repetitive, an activity that lies between science and art .” She violates into laugh.” Then again, I could just as easily be talking about photography .”

* Shredded is at Roman Road Gallery, London until 2 June.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Never be an ego lifter: personal trainers’ 12 secrets of successful exercising

Free advice from fitness professionals? Whats not to like? Heres how to train harder, smarter and cheaper, whether youre a novice or an old hand

Is there any group of people better qualified to comment on fitness habits than personal trainers? From their vantage point on gym floors across the country, they see our grunting, sweating exertion up close: the peacocking bros, the men who don’t wipe down the machines when they are done- and that female on the treadmill who is never off her telephone. But what common mistakes do they witness, day in day out? Which fitness myths actually gale them up? And can they answer the burning exercise-related question of our times: is Noel Edmonds right to claim that stretching is a con fabricated by personal trainers?

In the land of the gym machines, technique is king

The No 1 gripe from all the personal trainers I spoke to was the same: poor technique- not lifting weights correctly, leaning forwards into your squat, or busting out the repeatings, but with the incorrect posture and form. Not merely does bad technique risk causing trauma, but it is often pointless exertion: your body won’t reap any benefits.

Learn to do things properly, and then slow down.” I’d rather people did two repeats of a full push-up than 10 repeatings on their knees ,” says Jermaine Johnson, a personal trainer with the gym chain Blok.” They’re going to shock their muscles and increase their strength. The body adapts to movement patterns, so the more you do it, the better you’re going to get. I wish people knew that, and worked for quality over sum .”

Fitness classes can be great- but tread with caution

When it comes to poor form, part of the problem may be our growing fondness for fitness classes. Although classes can be a great way to get into exercise- and more motivating than working out on your own- often, teachers don’t demonstrate the exercises for more than a few seconds.

If you are a newbie, it is easy to get things wrong.” If you’re a beginner in a class and you’re doing a deadlift with the incorrect technique, you’re going to be in bed for three days with a sore back ,” says the personal trainer Bradley Simmonds. He advises beginners to arrive before class start, and pull their teachers aside for a chat.” Ask your instructor:’ Can you be demonstrated by the proper technique ?’- and then you’re good to go .”

Women, lifting weights won’t turn you into Hulk Hogan

Of all the myths that persist around exert, this is one of the most damaging, as it omits females from the health benefits of strength training. Lifting weights will help you to stay strong and active into old age, and can reduce your likelihood of having back pain or bone fractures in later life. But many women still avoid the free-weights section because they are concerned that the odd bicep curl will turn them into Hulk Hogan.” I want more women to know that weights won’t bulk them ,” says Johnson.” It’s a mistake to assume that, after a few weight sessions, you’re going to wake up looking like a bodybuilder. It takes a very long time to build up muscle .”

Don’t feel nervous about venturing into the weights segments.” For women, or people from the LGBTQ community, it can be scary even to walk into the section of the gym that has all the weights in it for the first time ,” says Melanie Stride, a personaltrainer and lifting specialist. She encourages women to educate themselves about the benefits of strength training, and get lifting.” Lifting culture has been seen as very male, very straight and very young. One of the biggest things I do is reassure people outside of those groups that they can do this, in an environment where they feel safe, accepted and part of a community .”

Woman
Illustration: Lorenzo Gritti/ The Guardian

You may not be trying hard enough

” I have a friend who used to go to the gym and sit on the motorcycle and watch Diagnosis: Murder ,” says Sarah Overall, a fitness and nutrition expert.” If you can concentrate on that, you probably need to do a bit more work .” How do you know if you’re working hard enough?” You need to get yourself to a point where you’re feeling breathless, and you can answer questions, but you can’t have a whole conversation ,” she says.

The odd jog isn’t enough. The NHS advises adults aged 19 to 64 to do 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, in addition to twice-weekly strength exercises, to stay healthy.” Merely having a little stroll around the park isn’t going to do it ,” Overall says.

Push yourself. Are you doing as many burpees as you perhaps can during your regular HIIT( high-intensity interval educate) class? Working to failure- meaning that you exert to the point of exhaustion- will take your body to the next level, says Johnson.” If you feel a define was easy, find the phase where you’re working to failing- that’s when you know your body is working .”

You don’t need imagination gear or boutique-gym membership

Don’t be fooled by the yoga bunnies wearing expensive brands on Instagram: you don’t need sweat-wicking fibers or seamless running tights to exert. A T-shirt, a supportive sports bra( if you are female) and a pair of leggings or shorts will be fine. What you shouldn’t skimp on, says Overall, are decent trainers.” Go to a specialist shop, walk on a treadmill so they can look at your gait, and make sure the shoes accommodate you properly. If you’re not wearing the correct footwear, that can cause injury .”

Even if you cannot afford to join a gym, there is no reason not to get moving.” If you have space in your house or garden, or in a nearby park, that’s all you need ,” says Hannah Lewin, a personal trainer who works exclusively with women. She points to all the fitness content available on YouTube or Instagram, as well as free apps such as Couch to 5K, or Virgin’s free marathon training schemes. If you can afford to join a gym, there is usually a personal trainer on the floor who will demonstrate the basic exercises.

Leave your ego in the locker-room

You know the type- an ego lifter struts about the weights segment, loudly grunting as they grapple with the biggest weight they can manage.” There’s always going to be the ego lifters ,” says the personal trainer and disability specialist Rob Ghahremani.” Every gym has one. We’ve got an moronic in ours who sprayings chalk utterly everywhere. For the bench press, he’ll load the bar up with 150 kilos and move the weight about as far as I can walk- which isn’t very far .”( Ghahremani utilizes a wheelchair .)

Not only are ego lifters vexing, but they may be causing themselves damage.” Their technique is often really bad ,” says Johnson.” Because they want to look and feel as if they’re working hard, they put maximum stress not only on their muscles, but on their whole body and joints .” It’s also unnecessary: heavier weights aren’t always best.” You can train with a lighter weight and slow down the tempo, focus on your scope of motion, and you’ll feel it more than doing bad reps with a heavy weight .”

Man
Illustration: Lorenzo Gritti/ The Guardian

Find your real motivation

In gyms, as in life, it is a good idea to ask yourself: what am I doing here?” Everyone should be able to have their own goals for their body ,” says Stride.” If you want to get genuinely lean and shredded, I’m not going to cast judgment on that goal. But there are so many other reasons to exert, whether it’s for your physical or psychological health .”

Overall believes you should train for the body you have , not the body you think you should have.” You can’t really alter your basic shape ,” she says.” If you’re a natural pear shape, you are always going to be a pear shape. You can reduce your body fat, to make yourself appear smaller, but your bottom will still be in the same proportion to your top .”

Be realistic about what exert alone can achieve

If you want to lose weight, exercise isn’t enough – you also need to look at diet. We tend to overestimate the calories we burn in the gym; it is the reason female marathon runners often gain weight while training. Simmonds points out that many people run really hard in the gym, but then think they can eat what they like:” They dedicate 100% endeavor, and then ruin it by having a massive dinner .”

Don’t just smash the cardio.” Throwing yourself into the weights room is where you’re going to get the most effective outcomes ,” says Johnson. And if the number on the scales remains the same, don’t be disheartened.” Clients sometimes complain they haven’t lost weight, but they’ve actually lost fat and replaced it with muscle .”

Gels and protein powders are best left to the professionals

Beware the siren call of expensive energy drinks and gels.” Unless you’re doing more than 90 minutes of endurance work, you do not need an energy beverage ,” says Overall. The same goes for protein powders, unless you are actively bodybuilding.

Reject the guff and nonsense of diet culture.” I work on an anti-diet basis ,” says Lewin.” That doesn’t mean I am anti-fat loss, if that’s what you want. But I’m anti-nonsense-products, such as fad teas, tablets and raspberry ketones- anything that makes a profit, rather than promoting long-term health .”

Don’t do the same thing week-in, week-out

When it comes to fitness, routine is the enemy of progress.” The body responds to progressive overload ,” says Stride,” so unless you progressively overload a motion, you’re never going to move forward. If you don’t ever increase your weights, and you carry on doing the same decides, week in, week out, you’ll maintain your fitness, but you won’t make progress .”

To get the best out of exercise, it is required to do a mixture of cardio, strength and flexibility run.” Cardio is going to stimulate “were living” longer, and construct your heart more efficient ,” says Ghahremani.” Weight training will strengthen your muscles and lead to stable muscle growth. And flexibility work will stop you putting your back away get out of bed in the morning. All three are equally important to a good, long, healthy life .”

Go at your own pace, and don’t be afraid

If you have the money to hire a personal trainer, be upfront with them about your dreads.” If you don’t want to work out until you’re sick, you should never be in a position where you have to do that ,” says Overall.” Be honest- if you’re really scared and think this is going to half-kill you, share that with the person training you .”

Disabled people shouldn’t underestimate how much they can do.” Often, they tell themselves they can’t do certain things ,” Ghahremani finds,” and they place more limits on themselves than they should. Boundaries can be pushed! You’ve just got to be a bit creative about it .”

If you are older and have health problems, speak to your GP before hurling yourself into fitness, advises Richard Miller , who specialises in develop the over-5 0s. Look at the capabilities of your body, and find workout that works for you.” A lot of the guys I insure have knackered knees; cycling is low-impact, and even better is swimming, which is great body conditioning, but also low impact for people with joint or knee issues .”

Don’t listen to Noel Edmond s

Finally, the most urgent fitness question of all: is stretching genuinely a swindle invented by personal trainers? Lewin certainly doesn’t think so.” Although sometimes overlooked, stretching has many benefits ,” she says,” including increasing flexibility and range of motion and improving posture .” She advises that you incorporate stretching into your warm-up and cool-down routines, to help the body prepare for movement and recover after a workout.

Stride agrees that stretching can be useful, but only if you are doing it right: waving your arms about while stand stock-still isn’t going to do much.” Static stretching is rarely necessary or an effective use of exercise time for the majority of clients ,” she says.” Instead, dynamic( moving) stretchings are a great way to warm up, with static holds used only sparingly to access some additional scope of motion prior to training .”

The verdict is in, then: stretching is not a scam. But, as Edmonds might observe, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Where machismo meets tiny gold gasps: the bodybuilding art of Alix Marie

With her reveal Shredded, full of bulge bodies sweating under bright suns, the artist lays bare the fascinating, surreal world of inflatable musclemen

As you enter Roman Road Gallery in London’s East End, the noise from a pair of speakers in the vestibule is almost overwhelming: grunts, exhalations and the thud of heavy metal weights landing on the floor. Recorded in a bodybuilder’s gym, this is an introductory soundscape for Alix Marie’s show, Shredded.

” I want the spectator to enter an environment that is immediately uncomfortable, almost scary ,” says the Paris-born artist, whose work merges photography and statue and tends towards the grotesque.” I have amplified what the novelist Kathy Acker, herself a bodybuilder, called’ the language of the body’ as it undergoes this extreme transformation and essentially breaks down .”

Disturbing
Disturbing and surreal … inflatable body parts and photo vitrines in Shredded. Photograph: Courtesy of Roman Road and the artist ./ Ollie Hammick
In the main gallery, the noise is different but no less relentless. Fan pump air into three inflatable polyester torsos- all bulging biceps, veiny scalp and straining muscle- that stand erect and quivering on a created shelf. As a metaphor for extreme bodybuilding, the pumped-up photo-sculptures are both disturbing and surreal. Likewise the images in the light boxes below, more close-ups of bulging bodies that seem to be sweating under bright spotlights. On closer inspection, they are mounted on shallow vitrines half-filled with liquid. On the opposite wall, cut-out silhouettes of pumped-up bodies are arranged in a row- arms, chests and necks, thighs as big as tree trunks. The combined effect of the noise and image overload in such a confined space is claustrophobic, ultra-masculine, nearly intimidating. But also oddly camp.

“Good,” says Alix Marie, chuckling.” Bodybuilding is a performance of extreme virility but, in competition, it also comprises huge humen nearly naked except for tight gold gasps. For me, the contrast of the machismo and the campness is fascinating. When they perform they become moving sculptures, as much Auguste Rodin as Arnie Schwarzenegger .”

It was the young Arnie who, in the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron, famously likened the ritual of professional bodybuilding to having sexuality with a woman:” I am coming day and night. It’s terrific, right … I’m in heaven .” For Alix Marie the fascination was more about the ways in which masculinity is exhibited and performed in extremis in an enclosed, all male world. The bodies that feature in her exhibition are all part of three men she photographed in gyms in Bethnal Green, Ealing and Tottenham.” I used to live opposite the one in Tottenham ,” she says,” After some persuasion, they let me in to their boxing room for a total of five minutes to shoot the model. I guess they didn’t want to freak out the clientele with a female presence .”

Shredded- the word describes person with extremely low body fat and very well defined muscles- continues Marie’s interest in” body, gender and sculpture .” In the past, she has cast her own body parts in gray concrete and printed the images on glass, fabric, paper-mache and PVC. For one prove, she draped images of nude torsos on metal scaffolding and, for another, plastic pipes of fluids snaked along the gallery floor, erupting out of sculptures that was like mutant sexual organs straight out of a David Cronenberg movie. She quotes the aberrant film-maker as a prime influence alongside the surrealists. Her most powerfully unsettling work seems to come from a similar source- the realm of the unconscious and irrational, but it is tempered with a consistent formal discipline and a desire to somehow meld two creative practices that do not tend to sit together easily.

” It is challenging to work with photography as statue, but it is what has always fascinated me ,” she says,” I never wanted to chose between the eye and the hand. In a way, I want to go inside the photograph, which is, of course, impossible. Also, I need physical contact in the making of the work, but as a big part of the viewer’s experience of it .”

I
I want to go inside the photograph … Recky Abdominal by Alix Marie. Photograph: Courtesy of Roman Road and the artist/ Alix Marie
A small survey of Marie’s work was on show earlier this month at
Photo London. It included a ceramic sculpture in which an image of a human eye was continuously drenched in absinthe from a perspex fountain.( The tableau refers to a French wedding night tradition in which the groom places an icon of an eye in a bidet used by the bride .) Visitors could kneel and drink from the absinthe fountain if they so wished. In the context of her recent run, it was a user-friendly piece. Across town, in a group show called Apparatus, at Peckham 24, things were more brutally physical with outsized inflated polystyrene statues of muscular limbs rotating on a contraption that called to mind a kebab skewer.” I like the idea of the viewer being simultaneously fascinated and repulsed ,” she says.” The surroundings I create are often uncomfortable. They demand a reaction .”

Alix Marie has been one of a generation of young largely female photographers, including Juno Calypso and Maisie Cousins, whose run explores notions of femininity, eroticism, gender and body image. In contrast to the uninhibited physicality of Cousins’s more sensual close-ups of brightly-lit, glistening bodies, lips and tongues, Marie’s work is often defined by her interest in the grotesque. Fluids, flesh-coloured tubing and rubber statues that resemble mutant sex aids have all featured in her work. She quotes the transgressive writings of Georges Bataille as another abide influence alongside the still-shocking fetishistic doll statues of Hans Bellmer.” As a feminist ,” she muses,” I have to ask myself why is he one of my favourite artists ?”

French film, too, is a touchstone. At Photo London, an image published on fabric of male hands buried in female hair rippled simply above ground level in the artificial breeze created by a hidden fan. It could have been taken from a French nouvelle vague movie.

Olympians
It is a very enclosed world … Olympians by Alix Marie. Photograph: Alix Marie
” I was raised watching a film a day ,” she says of her childhood in Paris. Born in 1993, her mom was a screenwriter and her father a film theorist, historian and lecturer.” They truly don’t get what I do, but they are hugely supportive ,” she says.

Alix Marie has lived in London for 11 years, studying fine art at Central Saint Martins before completing an MA in photography at the Royal College of Art. She says:” One of the things that most interests me is the clinical aspect of analogue photography that somehow connects it to medicine- the technicians, the laboratory, the baths, the gloves, the scalpel. For me, it is essentially a laboratory process and I approach it as such, as a place of experimentation and exploration .”

What has she learned from her submersion in the world of extreme bodybuilding?” I don’t think I have ever been in a more self-conscious surrounding ,” she says.” It’s about seeming strong, about poise and pose. Being rent, as they call it, is increasingly popular, but the bodybuilders still feel they are treated like freaks. It is a very enclosed world .” She pauses for a moment,” I would describe it as being very formal, very repetitive, an activity that lies between science and art .” She breaks into laugh.” Then again, I could just as easily be talking about photography .”

* Shredded is at Roman Road Gallery, London until 2 June.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Gym, eat, repeat: the shocking rise of muscle dysmorphia

The idealised male body has become bigger, bulkier and harder to achieve. So what drives a generation of young men to the all-consuming, often dangerous pursuit of perfection?

It is difficult for Miles to pinpoint the moment his muscle dysmorphia started. It was just always there, a background humming.” As far back as I can recollect, I wanted a better-looking body ,” says the 35 -year-old US soldier , now stationed in Mons, Belgium. When he was 13, Miles expended a summertime cutting grass to save up for a secondhand Soloflex exercise machine. The machine expense $1,000( PS800 ), but as Miles was too young to join a gym, it was worth the expense. With the help of the Soloflex, Miles started weight training and never seemed back.

When he returned from a posting to Afghanistan at 24, things spiralled. He began obsessively working out and regimenting his meals.” I went all in … it was full, hardcore dedication to the lifestyle .” Miles set his watch to beep every three hours, to remind him to eat. If it beeped when he was driving, he would pull over. Slowly, he whittled his body into shape. His muscles became striated, every fiber visible. Not big enough. At 95 kg( 210 lbs) and 1.8 metres( 6ft 2in ), Miles wanted to be more muscular; leaner. He lost 22 kg and started vying in amateur bodybuilding competitors. There was virtually no fat on him.” You pinch your scalp and it just stays pinched .” His girlfriend left him.” She began to realise that my body dysmorphia was like dating another person .” The pursuit of muscularity took over his life.” I only thought, I am so lean, and shredded, and veiny, and masculine- I don’t ever want to go back to how I was before .”

Yet by 33, single again- the dysmorphia had claimed yet another relationship- it had all become too much and he was in a darknes place.” I did not enjoy life in any way, shape or sort .” All day long, he would starve himself, struggle through punishing workouts, go home and binge-eat before throwing it all up. One evening, waiting in line at the burger chain In-N-Out for more food to purge, Miles finally decided enough was enough.” I woke up so happy the next day, knowing it was over .”

‘In
‘ In the In the 70 s, we find very slim, almost androgynous men, like Mick Jagger, and David Bowie … to be muscular was to be defined as to be militaristic .’ Photograph: Peter Mazel/ Sunshine/ Rex/ Shutterstock
A subset of body dysmorphic disorder, people with muscle dysmorphia feel they need to become bigger or more muscular, regardless of their size. Sometimes referred to as ” bigorexia”, it typically affects humen. About 30% of people with muscle dysmorphia will also have a medically diagnosable eating disorder- although as you need to be in calorie deficit to be diagnosed with an eating disorder, many men with the condition won’t meet the clinical threshold, despite following extremely restrictive diets. Because men with muscle dysmorphia rarely seek therapy, calculating its prevalence in the general population is hard, but it is believed that about
10-12% of professional male weightlifters satisfy the criteria.

And muscle dysmorphia may be on the rise. A study published in June found that 22% of men aged 18 -2 4 reported muscularity-oriented disordered feeing.” The drive for a bigger, more muscular body is becoming very prevalent ,” says the leading researcher Dr Jason Nagata of the University of California, San Francisco. Not everyone who benches 180 kg has muscle dysmorphia. It is when working out takes over your life, occluding all else- run, family, friends- that “youve got a problem”.” Their entire day is expended at the gym trying to bulk up ,” says Nagata.” They are also welcome to be taking illicit supplements like steroids .”

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Steroids, syringes and stigma: the quest for the perfect male six-pack – video

What drives a generation of young men to slavishly pursue this physical ideal?” Over the last decades, the idealised male body image has got bigger and bulkier ,” says Nagata.

This body type even pressed its way into our children’s bedrooms: studies is demonstrating that action figures have become brawnier over thepast 25 years.

This wasn’t always the case.” In the 70 s, we considered very slim, almost androgynous humen, like Mick Jagger and David Bowie … to be muscular was to be defined as to be militaristic, at a time when, in the US, there were protests against the Vietnam war ,” says Dr Roberto Olivardia of Harvard Medical School, an expert in male body image.” So that construct was actually frowned on and rejected by youth culture.

” But then the 80 s came about, with figures like Ronald Reagan, who was pro-military, and men like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone .” This ideal male- hyper-masculine, militaristic, strong above all else- was exported globally through films such as First Blood( 1982 ), Predator( 1987) and The Terminator( 1984 ). WWE wrestling was first established in 1980, and the likes of Hulk Hogan became celebrities. In the late 90 s, a leaner but still very muscular aesthetic- popularised by Brad Pitt in the movie Fight Club- became fashionable.

Today’s muscle humen stare down at us from the billboards of superhero films featuring superstars such as Chris Hemsworth or Jason Momoa, the latter only last week body-shamed online after photographs emerged of him enjoying himself on holiday in fractionally less-than-superhero condition. On the small screen, the current crop of Love Island contestants mug for the cameras in tiny swimming trunks, all the better to display their perfect six-packs.

However, just as fashion magazines don’t cause anorexia, but contribute to a toxic environment in which extreme thinness is celebrated, Hulk Hogan, Dwayne’ the Rock’ Johnson and Chris Hemsworth are not to be blamed for the disordered behaviours sweeping our gyms. According to the NHS, we do not yet know what causes body dysmorphia disorders but genetics, a chemical imbalance in the brain or a traumatic experience in your past may play a part. You are also more likely to develop it if you were bullied or abused as a child , something student Nathaniel Shaw knows well. The 28 -year-old was bullied at secondary school- they called him a Borrower, on account of his slender frame.

Dwayne
Dwayne’ the Rock’ Johnson in Fast& Furious 6. Photograph: Universal/ Kobal/ Rex/ Shutterstock
” I was always the small kid in the corner that no one wanted to speak to .” Social adoption came one squat press at a time.” From where I’m from in Nottingham, because it’s a very rough place, you’re training to protect yourself. The bigger guys are the serious people that no one wants to mess with. That was the main thing at the start- get big and be taken seriously .”

When Shaw went to college at age 17, he had a plan: work out all winter and expose his buff body come summer. But when he took off his T-shirt playing football one afternoon, a girl said that Shaw” had no chest “. He instantly set his top back on.” I still wasn’t good enough .” The unkind remark laid waste to Shaw’s fragile self-esteem; he walked away from the wreckage determined to become even more shredded.

Shaw’s life became: the gym, home to eat enormous portions of tuna, pasta and cheese, move as little as is practicable to conserve energy and recur. Shaw detached from the contours of normal life. He stayed in bed longer, later and missed quizs. He was depressed.” The pursuit of this muscular ideal takes over people’s lives ,” explains Nagata.” They become preoccupied with it. They can’t function in their daily life outside of pursuing this ideal and it can lead to depression, missing school or work, and losing their ability to do basic living tasks .”

To an observer, Shaw- who weighed 80 kg at 1.7 metres- was tank-like. But that wasn’t how he saw himself.” I would be in the gym and say:’ I look like shit .’ Everyone would be like:’ No you don’t, you’re huge, I wish I could look like that .'” Muscle dysmorphia is a disease of perception. Although its sufferers live in the material world- a place of grunting exertion and weighted purses and scoopable protein powders- they spend most of their time in an imagined reality, where they are incalculably huge. Their biceps are swollen watermelons; each muscle as finely striated as the delicate contours of a seashell.

But even if they eventually achieve that physique, it is not enough. As soon as one muscular ideal is achieved, a new goal seems.” There’s a saying:’ Once you step into a gym, you’re forever small ,'” says 27 -year-old Rich Selby, an amateur bodybuilder from Cardiff. Miles agrees.” Every muscle could be bigger. I could be leaner. You look at yourself and feel like everything is small and weak. I have no chest muscles; I have no arm muscles … you’re judging yourself against an impossible standard .”

Social media reflects this standard back at you.” You’re being sold a false reality ,” says Miles.” I can get into really good shape, right before I’m doing a bodybuilding rivalry, and use lighting and slants and filters to induce my physique seem even crazier than it already is, and save a bunch of images and upload them to make it seem that I always look like that, all year round .”

Some turn to illegal substances to attain this ideal. Tony, 23, works for a pharmaceutical distributor in Dallas. He started taking illegal performance-enhancing medications, including testosterone, equipoise and nandrolone, two years ago. The narcotics made a dangerous feedback loop-the-loop: the more he injected, the more his body altered and the more “hes taking”.” People are like:’ Wow, that guy’s a tank .’ They have more respect for you … I thought, heck yeah, I’m going to take more so I can get even bigger .”

It is a common experience: muscle dysmorphia can be fuelled by the positive reinforcement humen receive from other humen in the gym.” When you’re big, you get a lot of respect ,” Selby confirms. Men come up to him and ask how much he can bench. Sometimes they try to start fights.” That’s why people become addicted. They’re insecure, so they need confirmation from other people .” Selby self-identifies as having muscle dysmorphia, but believes that he has it under control, because he has good self-esteem.

Up close, you can see the havoc muscle dysmorphia wreaks.” Your interpersonal relationships fall apart- but you are so caught up in the endorphin rush of affirmation from your gym buddies, you barely notice ,” says Miles.” You’re kind of an asshole. You don’t realise it … you simply become this all-around grouch. It eats not only all of your time and concentrates, but also the human part of you .” It’s also a lonely existence. All your time is expended preparing protein-rich food, but because you are over-exercising, you are often” hungry, and cranky, and don’t sleep well “.

Among the young men Nagata surveyed, 2.8% had used illegal steroids, and it is estimated that up to 1 million Brits take performance-enhancing narcotics .” Steroids can lead to heart disease, kidney problems and liver damage ,” says Nagata. There are also mental health risks.” People may have extreme irritability, aggressivenes, paranoia and can be violent .”

Tony was one young man who utilized narcotics to bulk up. He knew what he was doing was dangerous: he would even donate blood to get his blood pressure down.” I merely genuinely didn’t care .” As he cycled on and off narcotics, he experienced dramatic mood swingings. He got fired from his job at a hardware store for screaming at a coworker in the breach room. Eventually, his mental health deteriorated so much that he came off all the narcotics in May last year.

‘Every
‘ Every muscle could be bigger. I could be leaner. I have no chest muscles; I have no arm muscles … you’re evaluate yourself against an impossible standard .’ Photograph: Posed by model/ Getty/ iStockphoto
What attains someone play Russian roulette with a steroid-filled syringe? Selby supposes people are driven to desperate measures because they cannot disassociate who they are from how they look.

It’s an obsession that can prove fatal. Freddie Dibben, 28, died in March 2017 after his heart became enlarged by the stimulant Clenbuterol. His father Clifford, 69, detected him.” The hardest component was going back through to the kitchen and telling his mum what I found. It’ll never go away .” Like Tony, Freddie experienced mood sways.” He would snap at you ,” Clifford says, remembering an incident where Freddie was ” stroppy” with him as they tinkered with his automobile. He put the moodiness down to work stress- Freddie had been pulling a lot of night shifts at Wilton carpet factory, where colleagues referred to him as a “forklift”, on account of how much he had been able to carry.

But Clifford felt blessed to have a health-conscious son; he didn’t see anything to be alarmed about. A keen gym-goer, Freddie even gave up smoking at his mothers’ petition.” He used to cook all his own food! He’d cook a meal before he went to work … he had two sets of scales, and he weighed all his veggies, everything. He even maintained notes of what he was eating and what he was doing .” Clifford chuckles, bitterly.” Except for the bloody medications .”

And that is one of the issues of muscle dysmorphia – you can conceal in plain sight. A pair of weighing scales in the kitchen; tupperware boxes of chicken and broccoli in your backpack. Most people opinion these as harmless, if idiosyncratic, behaviours. And when you look like you are hewn out of marble, it is hard to consider anything is amiss. It is only when you step past the facade that you realise these statue-like humen are slowly destroying themselves.

It is a silent epidemic- Olivardia calculates as many as 10% of men working out in gyms may be suffering, but never seek assistance. Lately, Tony has started taking illegal substances again, insisting” it can be done safely “. Clifford still has Freddie’s weighing scales in the kitchen. Looking at them, he would probably disagree.

* Some of the names in the piece have been changed

Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site .

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Where machismo gratifies tiny gold pants: the bodybuilding art of Alix Marie

With her display Shredded, full of bulging bodies sweating under bright sunlights, the artist lays bare the fascinating, surreal world of inflatable musclemen

As you enter Roman Road Gallery in London’s East End, the noise from a pair of speakers in the foyer is almost overwhelming: grunts, exhalations and the thud of heavy metal weights landing on the floor. Recorded in a bodybuilder’s gym, this is an introductory soundscape for Alix Marie’s show, Shredded.

” I want the spectator to enter an environment that is immediately uncomfortable, nearly scary ,” says the Paris-born artist, whose work merges photography and sculpture and tends towards the grotesque.” I have amplified what the novelist Kathy Acker, herself a bodybuilder, called’ the language of the body’ as it undergoes this extreme transformation and essentially breaks down .”

Disturbing
Disturbing and surreal … inflatable body parts and photo vitrines in Shredded. Photograph: Courtesy of Roman Road and the artist ./ Ollie Hammick
In the main gallery, the noise is different but no less relentless. Fan pump air into three inflatable polyester torsos- all bulging biceps, veiny scalp and straining muscle- that stand erect and quivering on a created shelf. As a metaphor for extreme bodybuilding, the pumped-up photo-sculptures are both disturbing and surreal. Likewise the images in the light boxes below, more close-ups of bulging bodies that seem to be sweating under bright spotlights. On closer inspection, they are mounted on shallow vitrines half-filled with liquid. On the opposite wall, cut-out silhouettes of pumped-up bodies are arranged in a row- limbs, chests and necks, thighs as big as tree trunks. The combined effect of the noise and image overload in such a confined space is claustrophobic, ultra-masculine, virtually intimidating. But also curiously camp.

“Good,” says Alix Marie, laughing.” Bodybuilding is a performance of extreme masculinity but, in competitor, it also comprises huge humen virtually naked except for tight gold gasps. For me, the contrast of the machismo and the campness is fascinating. When they perform they become moving sculptures, as much Auguste Rodin as Arnie Schwarzenegger .”

It was the young Arnie who, in the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron, famously likened the ritual of professional bodybuilding to having sex with a woman:” I am coming day and night. It’s terrific, right … I’m in heaven .” For Alix Marie the fascination was more about the ways in which masculinity is exhibited and performed in extremis in an enclosed, all male world. The bodies that feature in her exhibition are all part of three humen she photographed in gyms in Bethnal Green, Ealing and Tottenham.” I used to live opposite the one in Tottenham ,” she says,” After some persuasion, they let me in to their boxing room for a total of five minutes to shoot the model. I guess they didn’t want to freak out the clientele with a female presence .”

Shredded- the term describes someone with extremely low body fat and very well defined muscles- continues Marie’s interest in” body, gender and sculpture .” In the past, she has cast her own body parts in grey concrete and printed the images on glass, fabric, paper-mache and PVC. For one indicate, she draped images of nude torsos on metal scaffolding and, for another, plastic tubes of fluids snaked along the gallery floor, erupting out of statues that was like mutant sexual organs straight out of a David Cronenberg movie. She cites the aberrant film-maker as a prime influence alongside the surrealists. Her most powerfully unsettling run seems to come from a similar source- the realm of the unconscious and irrational, but it is tempered with a consistent formal discipline and a desire to somehow meld two creative practices that do not tend to sit together easily.

” It is challenging to work with photography as sculpture, but it is what has always fascinated me ,” she says,” I never wanted to chose between the eye and the hand. In a style, I want to go inside the photograph, which is, of course, impossible. Also, I need physical contact in the making of the run, but as a big part of the viewer’s experience of it .”

I
I want to go inside the photograph … Recky Abdominal by Alix Marie. Photograph: Courtesy of Roman Road and the artist/ Alix Marie
A small survey of Marie’s work was on show earlier this month at
Photo London. It included a ceramic sculpture in which an image of a human eye was endlessly drenched in absinthe from a perspex fountain.( The tableau refers to a French wedding night tradition in which the groom places an icon of an eye in a bidet used by the bride .) Visitors could kneel and drink from the absinthe fountain if they so wished. In the context of her recent work, it was a user-friendly piece. Across town, in a group show called Apparatus, at Peckham 24, things were more viciously physical with outsize inflated polystyrene statues of muscular arms rotating on a contraption that called to mind a kebab skewer.” I like the idea of the viewer being simultaneously fascinated and repulsed ,” she says.” The surroundings I create are often uncomfortable. They demand a reaction .”

Alix Marie is part of a generation of young mostly female photographers, including Juno Calypso and Maisie Cousins, whose run explores notions of femininity, eroticism, gender and body image. In contrast to the uninhibited physicality of Cousins’s more sensual close-ups of brightly-lit, glistening bodies, lips and tongues, Marie’s work is often defined by her interest in the grotesque. Liquids, flesh-coloured tubing and rubber sculptures that resemble mutant sex assistances have all featured in her run. She cites the transgressive writings of Georges Bataille as another bide influence alongside the still-shocking fetishistic doll sculptures of Hans Bellmer.” As a feminist ,” she muses,” I have to ask myself why is he one of my favourite artists ?”

French film, too, is a touchstone. At Photo London, an image printed on fabric of male hands buried in female hair rippled just above ground level in the artificial breeze created by a hide fan. It could have been taken from a French nouvelle vague movie.

Olympians
It is a very enclosed world … Olympians by Alix Marie. Photograph: Alix Marie
” I was raised watching a cinema a day ,” she says of her childhood in Paris. Born in 1993, her mother was a screenwriter and her parent a movie theoretician, historian and lecturer.” They genuinely don’t get what I do, but they are hugely supportive ,” she says.

Alix Marie has lived in London for 11 years, studying fine art at Central Saint Martins before completing an MA in photography at the Royal College of Art. She says:” One of the things that most interests me is the clinical aspect of analogue photography that somehow links it to medicine- the technicians, the laboratory, the baths, the gloves, the scalpel. For me, it is essentially a laboratory process and I approach it as such, as a place of experimentation and exploration .”

What has she learned from her submersion in the world of extreme bodybuilding?” I don’t think I have ever been in a more self-conscious environment ,” she says.” It’s about appearing strong, about poise and pose. Being ripped, as they call it, is increasingly popular, but the bodybuilders still feel they are treated like freaks. It is a very enclosed world .” She pauses for a moment,” I would describe it as being very formal, very repetitive, an activity that lies between science and art .” She transgresses into laugh.” Then again, I could just as easily be talking about photography .”

* Shredded is at Roman Road Gallery, London until 2 June.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Never be an ego lifter: personal trainers’ 12 secrets of successful exercising

Free advice from fitness professionals? Whats not to like? Heres how to train harder, smarter and cheaper, whether youre a novice or an old hand

Is there any group of people better qualified to comment on fitness habits than personal trainers? From their vantage point on gym floors in all regions of the country, they watch our grunting, sweating exertion up close: the peacocking bros, the men who don’t wipe down the machines when they are done- and that girl on the treadmill who is never off her telephone. But what common missteps do they witness, day after day? Which fitness myths really wind them up? And can they answer the burning exercise-related question of our times: is Noel Edmonds right to claim that stretching is a con fabricated by personal trainers?

In the land of the gym machines, technique is king

The No 1 gripe from all the personal trainers I spoke to was the same: poor technique- not lifting weights correctly, leaning forwards into your squat, or busting out the repeatings, but with the incorrect posture and kind. Not only does bad technique danger causing trauma, but it is often pointless exertion: your body won’t reap any benefits.

Learn to do things properly, and then slow down.” I’d rather people did two repeatings of a full push-up than 10 repeatings on their knees ,” says Jermaine Johnson, a personal trainer with the gym chain Blok.” They’re going to shock their muscles and increase their strength. The body adapts to movement patterns, so the more you do it, the better you’re going to get. I wish people is well known, and worked for quality over quantity .”

Fitness classes can be great- but tread with caution

When it comes to poor form, part of the problem may be our growing fondness for fitness class. Although class can be a great way to get into exercise- and more motivating than working out on your own- often, teachers don’t demonstrate the exercises for more than a few seconds.

If you are a newbie, “its easy” to get things wrong.” If you’re a beginner in a class and you’re doing a deadlift with the wrong technique, you’re going to be in bed for three days with a sore back ,” says the personal trainer Bradley Simmonds. He advises beginners to arrive before classes start, and pull their teachers aside for a chat.” Ask your teacher:’ Can you show me the proper technique ?’- and then you’re good to go .”

Women, lifting weights won’t turn you into Hulk Hogan

Of all the myths that persist around workout, this is one of the most damaging, as it excludes females from the health benefits of strength training. Lifting weights will help you to stay strong and active into old age, and can reduce your likelihood of having back ache or bone fractures in later life. But many women still avoid the free-weights section because they are concerned that the odd bicep curl will turn them into Hulk Hogan.” I want more women to know that weights won’t bulk them ,” says Johnson.” It’s a mistake to assume that, after a few weight conferences, you’re going to wake up looking like a bodybuilder. It takes a very long time to build up muscle .”

Don’t feel nervous about venturing into the weights sections.” For women, or people from the LGBTQ community, it can be scary even to walk into the section of the gym that has all the weights in it for the first time ,” says Melanie Stride, a personaltrainer and lifting expert. She encourages women to educate themselves about the benefits of strength training, and get lifting.” Lifting culture has been seen as very male, very straight and very young. One of the biggest things I do is reassure people outside of those groups that they can do this, in an environment where they feel safe, accepted and part of a community .”

Woman
Illustration: Lorenzo Gritti/ The Guardian

You were not able to be trying hard enough

” I have a friend who used to go to the gym and sit on the bike and watch Diagnosis: Murder ,” says Sarah Overall, a fitness and nutrition expert.” If you can concentrate on that, you probably need to do a bit more work .” How do you know if you’re working hard enough?” You need to get yourself to a point where you’re feeling breathless, and you can answer questions, but you can’t have a whole conversation ,” she says.

The odd jog isn’t enough. The NHS advises adults aged 19 to 64 to do 150 minutes of moderate activity a few weeks, in addition to twice-weekly strength workouts, to stay healthy.” Merely having a little stroll around the park isn’t going to do it ,” Overall says.

Push yourself. Are you doing as many burpees as you maybe can during your regular HIIT( high-intensity interval training) class? Working to failure- meaning that you exercise to the point of exhaustion- will take your body to the next level, says Johnson.” If “youre feeling” a situated was easy, find the phase where you’re working to failing- that’s when you know your body is working .”

You don’t need fancy gear or boutique-gym membership

Don’t be fooled by the yoga bunnies wearing expensive brands on Instagram: you don’t need sweat-wicking fibers or seamless operating tights to exert. A T-shirt, a supportive athletics bra( if you are female) and a pair of leggings or shorts will be fine. What you shouldn’t skimp on, says Overall, are decent trainers.” Go to a specialist shop, stroll on a treadmill so they can look at your gait, and make sure the shoes accommodate you properly. If you’re not wearing the correct footwear, that can cause injury .”

Even if you cannot afford to join a gym, there is no reason not to get moving.” If you have space in your house or garden, or in a nearby park, that’s all you need ,” says Hannah Lewin, a personal trainer who works exclusively with women. She points to all the fitness content available on YouTube or Instagram, as well as free apps such as Couch to 5K, or Virgin’s free marathon training plans. If you can afford to join a gym, there is usually a personal trainer on the floor who will demonstrate the basic exercises.

Leave your ego in the locker-room

You know the type- an ego lifter struts about the weights segment, aloud grunting as they grapple with the biggest weight they can manage.” There’s always going to be the ego lifters ,” says the personal trainer and disability specialist Rob Ghahremani.” Every gym has one. We’ve got an moronic in ours who sprayings chalk perfectly everywhere. For the bench press, he’ll load the bar up with 150 kilos and move the weight about as far as I can walk- which isn’t very far .”( Ghahremani utilizes a wheelchair .)

Not only are ego lifters riling, but they may be causing themselves damage.” Their technique is often really bad ,” says Johnson.” Because they want to look and feel as if they’re working hard, they put maximum stress not only on their muscles, but on their whole body and joints .” It’s also unnecessary: heavier weights aren’t always best.” You can train with a lighter weight and slow down the tempo, concentrating on your range of movement, and you’ll feel it more than do bad reps with a heavy weight .”

Man
Illustration: Lorenzo Gritti/ The Guardian

Find your real motivation

In gyms, as in life, it is a good idea to ask yourself: what am I doing here?” Everyone should be able to have their own aims for their own bodies ,” says Stride.” If you want to get actually lean and shredded, I’m not going to cast judgment on that goal. But there are so many other reasons to exert, whether it’s for your physical or psychological health .”

Overall believes you should train for the body you have , not the body you think you should have.” You can’t really alter your basic shape ,” she says.” If you’re a natural pear shape, you are always going to be a pear shape. You can reduce your body fat, to stimulate yourself look smaller, but your bottom will still be in the same proportion to your top .”

Be realistic about what exert alone can achieve

If you want to lose weight, exert isn’t enough – you also need to look at diet. We tend to overestimate the calories we burn in the gym; it is the reason female marathon runners often gain weight while training. Simmonds points out that many people work really hard in the gym, but then think they can eat what they like:” They give 100% endeavor, and then ruin it by having a massive snack .”

Don’t simply smash the cardio.” Throwing yourself into the weights room is where you’re going to get the most effective outcomes ,” says Johnson. And if the number on the scales bides the same, don’t be disheartened.” Clients sometimes complain they haven’t lost weight, but they’ve actually lost fat and replaced it with muscle .”

Gels and protein powders are best left to the professionals

Beware the siren call of expensive energy drinkings and gels.” Unless you’re doing more than 90 minutes of endurance work, you do not need an energy drink ,” says Overall. The same goes for protein powders, unless you are actively bodybuilding.

Reject the guff and nonsense of diet culture.” I work on an anti-diet basis ,” says Lewin.” That doesn’t mean I am anti-fat loss, if that’s what you want. But I’m anti-nonsense-products, such as fad teas, tablets and raspberry ketones- anything that makes a profit, rather than promoting long-term health .”

Don’t do the same thing week-in, week-out

When it comes to fitness, routine is the enemy of progress.” The body responds to progressive overload ,” says Stride,” so unless you progressively overload a motion, you’re never going to move forward. If you don’t ever increase your weights, and you carry on doing the same situates, week in, week out, you’ll maintain your fitness, but you won’t make progress .”

To get the best out of exercise, it is required to do a mixture of cardio, strength and flexibility run.” Cardio is going to build you live longer, and make your heart more efficient ,” says Ghahremani.” Weight training will strengthen your muscles and lead to stable muscle growth. And flexible run will stop you putting your back away getting out of bed in the morning. All three are equally important to a good, long, healthy life .”

Go at your own pace, and don’t be afraid

If you have the money to hire a personal trainer, be upfront with them about your dreads.” If you don’t want to work out until you’re sick, you should never be in a position where you have to do that ,” says Overall.” Be honest- if you’re really scared and think this is going to half-kill you, share that with the person training you .”

Disabled people shouldn’t underestimate how much they can do.” Often, they tell themselves they can’t do certain things ,” Ghahremani finds,” and they place more limits on themselves than they should. Bounds can be pushed! You’ve just got to be a bit creative about it .”

If you are older and have health problems, speak to your GP before throwing yourself into fitness, advises Richard Miller , who specialises in training the over-5 0s. Look at the capabilities of your body, and find exercise that works for you.” A plenty of the guys I ensure have knackered knees; cycling is low-impact, and even better is swimming, which is great body conditioning, but also low impact for people with joint or knee issues .”

Don’t listen to Noel Edmond s

Finally, the most urgent fitness question of all: is stretching truly a scam invented by personal trainers? Lewin certainly doesn’t think so.” Although sometimes overlooked, stretching has many benefits ,” she says,” including increasing flexibility and range of motion and improving posture .” She advises that you incorporate stretching into your warm-up and cool-down routines, to help the body prepare for movement and recover after a workout.

Stride agrees that stretching can be useful, but only if you are doing it right: waving your limbs about while stand stock-still isn’t going to do much.” Static stretching is rarely necessary or an effective use of exercise time for the majority of clients ,” she says.” Instead, dynamic( moving) stretchings are a great way to warm up, with static holds used only sparingly to access some additional range of motion prior to training .”

The verdict is in, then: stretching is not a swindle. But, as Edmonds might find, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Where machismo fulfills tiny gold gasps: the bodybuilding art of Alix Marie

With her demonstrate Shredded, full of bulge bodies sweating under bright illuminates, the artist lays bare the fascinating, surreal world of inflatable musclemen

As you enter Roman Road Gallery in London’s East End, the noise from a pair of speakers in the vestibule is almost overwhelming: grunts, exhalations and the thud of heavy metal weights landing on the floor. Recorded in a bodybuilder’s gym, this is an introductory soundscape for Alix Marie’s show, Shredded.

” I want the viewer to enter an environment that is immediately uncomfortable, nearly scary ,” says the Paris-born artist, whose work merges photography and statue and tends towards the grotesque.” I have amplified what the novelist Kathy Acker, herself a bodybuilder, called’ the language of the body’ as it undergoes this extreme transformation and essentially breaks down .”

Disturbing
Disturbing and surreal … inflatable body parts and photo vitrines in Shredded. Photograph: Courtesy of Roman Road and the artist ./ Ollie Hammick
In the main gallery, the noise is different but no less relentless. Fan pump air into three inflatable polyester torsos- all bulging biceps, veiny scalp and straining muscle- that stand erect and quivering on a raised shelf. As a metaphor for extreme bodybuilding, the pumped-up photo-sculptures are both disturbing and surreal. Likewise the images in the light boxes below, more close-ups of bulging bodies that seem to be sweating under bright spotlights. On closer inspection, they are mounted on shallow vitrines half-filled with liquid. On the opposite wall, cut-out silhouettes of pumped-up bodies are arranged in a row- limbs, chests and necks, thighs as big as tree trunks. The combined effect of the noise and image overload in such a restricted space is claustrophobic, ultra-masculine, virtually intimidating. But also curiously camp.

“Good,” says Alix Marie, chuckling.” Bodybuilding is a performance of extreme masculinity but, in competitor, it also comprises huge humen almost naked except for tight gold pants. For me, the contrast of the machismo and the campness is fascinating. When they perform they become moving statues, as much Auguste Rodin as Arnie Schwarzenegger .”

It was the young Arnie who, in the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron, famously likened the ritual of professional bodybuilding to having sexuality with a woman:” I am coming day and night. It’s terrific, right … I’m in heaven .” For Alix Marie the fascination was more about the ways in which masculinity is exhibited and performed in extremis in an enclosed, all male world. The bodies that feature in her exhibition belong to three humen she photographed in gyms in Bethnal Green, Ealing and Tottenham.” I used to live opposite the one in Tottenham ,” she says,” After some persuasion, they let me in to their boxing room for a total of five minutes to shoot the model. I guess they didn’t want to freak out the clientele with a female presence .”

Shredded- the term describes person with extremely low body fat and very well defined muscles- continues Marie’s interest in” body, gender and sculpture .” In the past, she has cast her own body parts in gray concrete and printed the images on glass, fabric, paper-mache and PVC. For one demonstrate, she draped images of nude torsos on metal scaffolding and, for another, plastic tubes of fluids snaked along the gallery floor, erupting out of sculptures that was like mutant sexual organs straight out of a David Cronenberg movie. She cites the aberrant film-maker as a prime influence alongside the surrealists. Her most powerfully unsettling work seems to come from a similar source- the realm of the unconscious and irrational, but it is tempered with a consistent formal discipline and a desire to somehow meld two creative practices that do not tend to sit together easily.

” It is challenging to work with photography as sculpture, but it is what has always fascinated me ,” she says,” I never wanted to chose between the eye and the hand. In a route, I want to go inside the photograph, which is, of course, impossible. Also, I need physical contact in the making of the work, but as a big part of the viewer’s experience of it .”

I
I want to go inside the photograph … Recky Abdominal by Alix Marie. Photograph: Courtesy of Roman Road and the artist/ Alix Marie
A small survey of Marie’s work was on show earlier this month at
Photo London. It included a ceramic statue in which an image of a human eye was continuously drenched in absinthe from a perspex fountain.( The tableau refers to a French wedding night tradition in which the bridegroom places an icon of an eye in a bidet used by the bride .) Visitors could kneel and drink from the absinthe fountain if they so wished. In the context of her recent work, it was a user-friendly piece. Across town, in a group show called Apparatus, at Peckham 24, things were more viciously physical with outsized inflated polystyrene statues of muscular arms rotating on a contraption that called to mind a kebab skewer.” I like the idea of the viewer being simultaneously fascinated and repulsed ,” she says.” The environments I create are often uncomfortable. They demand a reaction .”

Alix Marie has been one of a generation of young largely female photographers, including Juno Calypso and Maisie Cousins, whose work explores notions of femininity, eroticism, gender and body image. In contrast to the uninhibited physicality of Cousins’s more sensual close-ups of brightly-lit, glistening bodies, lips and tongues, Marie’s work is often defined by her interest in the grotesque. Fluids, flesh-coloured tubing and rubber statues that resemble mutant sex assistances have all featured in her run. She quotes the transgressive writings of Georges Bataille as another abiding influence alongside the still-shocking fetishistic doll statues of Hans Bellmer.” As a feminist ,” she muses,” I have to ask myself why is he one of my favourite artists ?”

French film, too, is a touchstone. At Photo London, an image published on fabric of male hands buried in female hair rippled simply above ground level in the artificial breeze created by a hide fan. It could have been taken from a French nouvelle vague movie.

Olympians
It is a very enclosed world … Olympians by Alix Marie. Photograph: Alix Marie
” I was raised watching a movie a day ,” she says of her childhood in Paris. Born in 1993, her mother was a screenwriter and her father a movie theoretician, historian and lecturer.” They truly don’t get what I do, but they are hugely supportive ,” she says.

Alix Marie has lived in London for 11 years, studying fine art at Central Saint Martins before completing an MA in photography at the Royal College of Art. She says:” One of the things that most interests me is the clinical aspect of analogue photography that somehow links it to medicine- the technicians, the laboratory, the baths, the gloves, the scalpel. For me, it is essentially a laboratory process and I approach it as such, as a place of experimentation and exploration .”

What has she learned from her immersion in the world of extreme bodybuilding?” I don’t think I have ever been in a more self-conscious environment ,” she says.” It’s about seeming strong, about poise and pose. Being rent, as they call it, is increasingly popular, but the bodybuilders still feel they are treated like freaks. It is a very enclosed world .” She pauses for a moment,” I would describe it as being very formal, very repetitive, an activity that lies between science and art .” She transgresses into laughter.” Then again, I could just as easily be talking about photography .”

* Shredded is at Roman Road Gallery, London until 2 June.

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