Creating a Calorie Deficit

Calorie or energy deficit is when we consume less than we burn, so for example if someone burns 2000 cals per day and they consume 1800 cals, they would be in a deficit.

Ways that we can create a calorie (energy) deficit:

  1. Eat less than we burn.
  2. Burn more calories than we consume.
  3. A mixture of the two above.

We’ve all heard that you can’t out train a bad diet, so whilst it is possible to increase our physical output to a point where we are burning more than we consume, this can lead to a number of issues such as injury, overtraining and severe fatigue.

The better option for the majority (everyone is different) is option 3 which is a mixture of both, understanding what we are eating and the makeup of this, combined with regular training will allow for a good balance.

Remember, we are not looking for shock and awe, just solid progress without hammering ourselves.

Time for an example!

Mr Xyz is currently eating about 2200 cals per day, walks around the office and that’s about it.

He has a daily calorie burn of 1900 cals, so, currently is in a surplus, zero need to go crazy, so we would look at about 1800 cals, look to introduce a lunchtime walk (15 mins rising to 30 after a few months) and 2 resistance sessions per week.

With this, we should lose around 1-2 lbs per month without any drama, this will of course fluctuate depending on how much muscle is gained vs bodyfat lost (remember overall mass doesn’t give the whole picture).

Mr Xyz isn’t being super restrictive, progress is slower, however, it is sustainable and therefore giving a higher chance of success.

The daily walks help to keep his energy use up, the resistance work helps to build and maintain muscle, and the small calorie deficit ensures we are burning more energy than we consume.

Things to note, firstly, our weight fluctuates based on a large number of factors, such as hydration levels. 1ml is 1g so if you drink a litre of water then weigh yourself you will be heavier!

Your muscles need to repair after working out, to do this they need glycogen, to save getting too professor here, glycogen binds to water to the tune of (approximately) 2.7 grams per 1 gram of glycogen. This is a temporary affair, allows for good repair (and continued progress) and will even out after a few weeks.

Our hormones play a big role in weight, these can cause us to retain more water, not release glucose and many others, all I’m trying to get at here, is that sometimes we may ‘stall’ despite everything being on track! – keep going, likelihood is that our bodies are adjusting and getting ready for the next stage.

If you would like some more information on creating a calorie deficit, speak to a member of team SF on

Calorie Counting

Here we go, I await the division!

Calorie counting has over the years, got a bit of a bad rep, understandable, as there is an awful lot of information, calculators and apps available – all promising the new great success in body transformation.

Let’s get real for a moment, most measuring tools can lead to negative behaviours. This could be the scales, how much we can lift, how fast we run a km and so on.

You see, the way in which tracking works, is by showing us how we can improve, naturally, we then look for a linear improvement and here is where things can get a little rough.

Let’s say we start deadlifting, and our lift goes up by 30kg from 70kg in the first 4 weeks, with some training, form guidance and getting used to the lift. This is awesome, and you would (and should) be proud.

So, following a linear path, by the end of the year we should be lifting north of 400 kg? Another 11 months, 30 kg added per month, quick maths 100 kg + 30 kg x 11 months is 430 kg!!!

An extreme example granted but I needed to get the point across.

When we look at calories, we tend to do a similar thing, I dropped X calories and in the first 4 weeks lost 6lbs, in the following 4 weeks I ‘only’ dropped 3lbs, so I must need to do something with my calories because, well because right?

Counting calories is a useful tool to help us better understand what’s going on in our daily eating habits, the most important part is that we use this information to make better choices and create and healthy relationship with food.

It always surprises me when clients ask about calories and I hear the number that they have been given by an app and think that is frankly very low!

We have a little chat, I convince them to raise it up, if you had a read of last weeks article 80% vs 100% is where this fits, we roll on a few weeks, and they are saying they look better, and the weight is going down.

Being honest here, I care less about the weight in KG (we still high five about the weight loss though!) and more that they are feeling better about how they look.

So let’s think about how to go about counting calories, most of all we should be using this to record the foods we currently eat against our daily energy needs.

Things to concentrate on:

  • The values of foods
    • Protein
    • Carbs
    • Fats
  • Portion sizes
    • This is where we find that people can (usually) still enjoy themselves with a volume adjustment
    • Learning how much 28/56g of cheese really is *winky emoji*
  • Accepting the learning curve
    • We should use the first few weeks to learn, some days we might go over our target, some days under
    • Do we need to eat a little more on training days
    • Should we cycle calories (high/low days or slightly lower mon-fri) to allow for some treats at the weekend
  • Look at how we can prioritise protein in our diets
    • It’s good for repair
    • Helps to keep you feeling satiated (fuller)

There are lots of mythologies about, this is not a one size fits all. Calorie counting should help us to reach our goals not create internal conflict or the dread of recording.

If you would like help with understanding how to calculate your daily intake/expenditure, contact one of the SF team on

Staying on track at the weekends

Ah the weekends, time to relax, unwind and enjoy time with family and friends – surely something we should be looking forward too…

This can also mean staying on track is, well, frankly damn hard!

We prep and plan our week out, fight the urge for office snacks and even swerve the treats, all to be in a limbo on the weekend, see, when at work we can only have what we’ve brought in which physiologically has us sorted.

When we unwind on a Friday night, with everything in reach, a small snack can turn into a bacon roll for the morning and this continues, all whilst making us feel guilty about it, which in itself leads to a bit of a food downward spiral.

So, what to do – the age-old question!

Let’s take a look at some tactics we could employ, now, first and foremost, we need to unwind and enjoy the weekend, and with that let’s think about the longevity of staying on track.

You are more likely to succeed if you are on point 80% of the time than 100%, will the result be a little slower? Sure, will it allow you to be more comfortable, enjoy yourself and still be able to be social – absolutely.

I’ll chuck some maths in here – please note this is a perfect linear example, our bodies don’t work like this, but it’ll highlight the point I’m trying to get across.

Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4lbs Lost

*3500 cals lost  = 1lbs of fat (approximately)

So 100% person stays on point all the time, even on weekends, whatever that takes loses 1 lbs per week, now with this, there is zero room for manoeuvre – how enjoyable and more importantly sustainable is this?

Going to drop in here that for some people, routine is key and in that case the 100% works and that’s great, with an adaptive change to maintenance calories once their goals are achieved.

For others, we need flexibility within the plan to allow for other engagements that pop up from time to time.

Person 80% has some weekend leeway, 700 cals in this example, so got a meal to go to, lunch out with friends maybe some ice cream. Does this sound more enjoyable and sustainable?

Even with the 80% rule, we still need to make sure we have some tactics in place to help out over the weekend.

  1. Plan ahead, not your entire weekend, we’re supposed to be resting! – I’m thinking more along the lines of having a solid breakfast before going out, we will be less likely to need a snack to keep us going…
  2. Social reconnaissance, going out with friends for food, scope out the menu in advance, this way you can make your choice, have it agreed with yourself and not be trying to work out the calories whilst you should be enjoying yourself.
  3. Active time, there are so many examples of this, especially now the weather is getting better (double crosses fingers and toes – don’t blame me if it gets worse!!)
    1. So we could walk to the venue or walk part way if it’s a little far to walk, now all walking is good – we don’t need an Olympic power walk here.
    2. Plan activities that aren’t sedentary, so could you catch up over a walk in the park, maybe visit some different locations – museums, coffee on the beach etc.
  4. Schedule a light workout, we all feel better after the workout (maybe not during…) it doesn’t have to be anything mega big, just enough to feel good and when we feel good we make better food choices, that and the fact we’ve worked out makes us not want to waste the effort we put in!!
  5. No labelling, everything is OK in moderation, as they say. The thing is that we tend to put foods in a good and bad column which in turn leads to the ‘ah screw it, I’ve had some now’ moments – I prefer to look at my foods as these are all the super things I like to eat and some portion sizes are bigger (proteins) than others (fats) so if we want a bit of ice cream (can you tell I like ice cream yet?) then we can have it, just maybe not a tub at a time.

I guess the key here is to create a healthy relationship with food, sure that sounds all lovey dovey, but the reality is that once we learn how to balance our intakes without having to be super restrictive the better and faster the results will come.

Compound Lifts

The big ones, the old school ones and the ultimate measure of strength!

Before we get carried away with how much we can lift, how about we focus for a bit on the actual movements and mechanics of these?

Normally we would look at squat, bench and deadlift as the big 3, followed closely by military press and pull-ups.

Moving weight in these movements requires way more than one muscle group working together or simply put they are multijoint movements.

The more muscle we recruit during a movement, the more we release hormones, we need these hormones to develop. So compound (or multijoint) movements are key.

Now, having said that, we don’t need to run off to the barbell or pull-up station straight away!

As we covered last week, we need to build the correct shapes and movements – our technique, so starting off with an aim to get everything feeling fluid during the movement is important.

Let’s take a look at the three main movements, along with some alternatives that can be used as well.

Barbell Squat

Everyone loves a squat right?!?!

  1. Set the bar height to just below the top of your shoulder – this allows us to lift the bar out of the hooks.
  2. Tuck ourselves under the bar with it resting on our traps – be careful to not have it too high up and on your neck.
  3. Grip the bar whilst pulling your elbows towards your body – this helps keep the bar tight and controlled.
  4. Lift the bar up and out of the hooks, step backwards into your squat stance – position your feet as needed.
  5. Take a breath and keep your upper body ‘tight’, descend with the bar keeping our upper body as straight as possible – we want the bar path to be straight up and down with as little forward/backward motion as possible.
  6. Once we have reached parallel, push, we push through our heels, driving the weight back to our starting position.

Alternatives – Air squat, Kettlebell squat, Bulgarian split squat

Barbell Bench press

Load up the bar!!

  1. Set the bar slightly lower than your arms are at full extension.
  2. Lie down on a flat bench. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder width – we are looking for a 90-degree angle when we pass through the middle of the descent, start with the bar and find the right position for your grip.
  3. Make sure your feet are firm and good tension is created through your body.
  4. Lift the bar from the rack and hold it straight over you with your arms locked.
  5. Take a breath and begin coming down slowly until the bar touches your middle chest.
  6. Pause briefly, push the bar back to the starting position as you breathe out.
  7. Focus on pushing the bar using your chest.
  8. Hold for a second and then start coming down slowly again for the next rep
  9. Once complete, re-rack the bar.

Tip: Ideally, lowering the weight should take about twice as long as raising it.

Alternatives – DB bench press, cable chest press, plate press


King of the lifts!!

  1. Ideally we should use Olympic plates (45cm ones, to ensure the bar height is constant)
  2. Walk up to the bar and have it inline with Metatarsophalangeal joint (MCP) or for today Foot knuckles.
  3. Standing with our feet hip-width apart. Bend down from the hip and grip the bar at shoulder-width with your arms just outside your legs, pull your shoulders together.
  4. Take a big breath and then lower your hips and flex your knees forward until your shins contact the bar.
  5. Look forward with chest up and begin driving through the heels to move the weight upward.
  6. After the bar passes the knees, lock the movement out in the standing position.
  7. Lower the bar by bending at the hips and knees, making it the reverse of the movement you have just performed.

Alternatives – Kettlebell deadlift, stiff leg deadlift, sumo deadlift.

For more information, or help with writing and programming your compound lifts, contact a member of Team SF today!

Resistance training – A quick start guide

So we’ve looked at the benefits of resistance training, knocked a few myths down and we’re ready to start out.

Big breath needed, lots of different weights, machines, attachments and bands – where do we start??

Easy is the answer, as with all skills we learn in life, resistance training is no different. That is, we need to learn how to move correctly and how to make the right shapes, this will take our body a little time to get used to.

I’m sure you’ll have a whole load of questions, so let’s aim to cover as many as possible by creating an 8-week plan together below:

Excuse the suck eggs bit, however, we need to start from the top.

Warm up, we need to get blood around our body for the work we are about to undertake, ideally this should be ‘full body’ so something like the cross trainer or rower is always a good starting point.

We’ll be able to get our heart rate up and move all of our joints. Aim for 5-10 minutes, remember, this is your warm-up, so getting our heart rate up is going to be different for everyone.

Start by working major muscle groups, so let’s think about 2 exercises for each of the major muscle groups and then move onto the smaller ones.

  1. Leg Press
  2. Kettlebell squats
  3. Pull downs
  4. Rows
  5. Chest Press (barbell, dumbbell, plate)
  6. Shoulders
  7. Arms (Biceps and Triceps)

Quick pit stop, why the major ones first?

This is because they are multijoint movements, this gives us a bit more bang for our buck.

We want to train the larger groups first as they incorporate the smaller ones. We then train the smaller ones toward the end, once we have worked the larger groups.

How many sets/reps, and how fast/slow should I go?

OK, so there is going to be so many different approaches to this and to keep our plan straight forward we are going to keep the reps the same and increase the sets to start out with.

The main key is to learn the techniques, then improve our performance over the length of the plan.

We are going to perform a warm-up, then 2 working sets of 15 with a moderate weight. For the first few sessions, we just need to focus on the technique and if the weight needs to be increased the following session, so be it!

A quick indicator of the correct weight would be that the last 2 reps are tough, but you can keep correct form.

Once we have got ourselves comfortable and our technique is looking sharp (better than the first workout at least) we can look to progress the plan.

This is where we can look to add a third set of each exercise, alternatively, increase the weight slightly as our technique improves.

After this, we can look at different variations of the movements, using different weights during the set, as in starting with one weight, then increasing it in the next sets. Again, there are many ways and none are either right or wrong.

So with all of this in mind and taking in to consideration that we also need to rest – think about full body having a rest day between each workout, let’s see what it looks like:

ExerciseWeek 1 & 2Week 3 – 6Week 7 onwards
Warm-up10 mins10 mins10 mins
Leg Press2 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps slightly heavier3 x 15 – increased effort Set 1 – 70% Set 2 – 80% Set 3 – 90%
Kettlebell squats2 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps
Pull downs2 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps slightly heavier3 x 10 reps slightly heavier
Rows2 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps
Chest Press dumbbells2 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps slightly heavier3 sets – 12, 10, 8 increasing weight each set
Chest Press cable machine2 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps
Shoulders2 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps
Biceps2 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps
Triceps2 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps3 x 15 reps

So, I’ve taken some liberties on week 7 onwards, as mentioned there are lots of routes, including sticking with 3×15 if that is working and feels good! – remember, there is no one size fits all here.

Once we’ve finished, we should undertake a cooldown, and stretch off.

So, we’ve created a nice workout to get us feeling comfortable in the gym and started on our resistance training journey.

If you would like some help creating yours and understanding more about how best to workout for yourself – pop us an email

Strength training for all

Ok so resistance training or strength training brings up a vision of people lifting big heavy weights, usually accompanied by lots of grunting in the ‘weights area’. 

So is it really for everyone? 

Here are some of the benefits, do they cross over with your goals?

Controlled Body Fat  

Muscle burns calories, in fact muscle burns around 3 times as many calories as fat does, so with a nice link back to the first benefit the more muscle we maintain the higher our metabolism will be. Strength training really is for everyone, long gone are days of the heavy weights area, we have developed a much more rounded understanding of how maintaining and building muscle supports an active and healthy lifestyle.  

It doesn’t need to be heavy weights, doesn’t mean you’ll have to start bench pressing or deadlifting (although they are cool!) there are so many options, dumbbells, kettlebells and cable machines to name a few.  

Maintaining Muscle Tissue  

When our hormones begin to decrease our muscle mass also decreases which in turn lowers our metabolism (our metabolism is governed by muscle mass) this decrease can be as much as 8-10% per decade! Strength training can offset this to around 1-2% and it doesn’t mean lifting super heavy weights, wearing a lifting belt and grunting is entirely optional. 

Decreased Risk of Injury  

This further breaks down in to a number of categories, firstly strength training decreases the risk of injury in other activities, such as running, cycling and swimming allowing you to perform to a higher level.  

Developing strength (both muscular and skeletal) can help reduce the impact of falls as well as general aches and pains. We start to lose muscle from around 30 years old, strength training can offset this which leads into the next benefit:  

Improved Bone Health  

Strength training is directly linked to improving ligament and tendon strength, whilst also helping to develop stronger bones. These together can reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis, whilst also decreases the risk of fractures.

Increased Strength  

This one is fairly obvious, you’ll gain an increase in strength, this will make daily tasks easier whether that’s lifting things in and out of the car, gardening, or other manual day to day tasks.  

If you want to explore the use of strength/resistance training, give us a shout we can help with technique, program design or 1-2-1 sessions to help you get started and get stronger. 

5 Myths of Strength Training.

With the increase in popularity and reporting on strength training, we have more people than ever trying it out for the first time, which is awesome.

There are so many different philosophies, routines and programs to follow, this can lead to confusion around what affect strength training has on the body, lets take a look at 5 myths of strength training.

1. Muscle turns into fat

This is going to be a short one! – Fatty tissue is fatty tissue and muscle tissue is muscle tissue, they are not interchangeable. So after disuse muscle will not turn into fat and unfortunately fat will not turn into muscle, building addition muscle can assist in burning fat but cannot convert it.

2. Strength/resistance training doesn’t burn fat

A very common one, mostly born out of how we measure success, spoiler alert the overall weight number on the scales doesn’t tell the whole story….

Strength training is usually up against cardiovascular training, going to get a little sciencey for a bit:

When we undertake cardiovascular training we tend not to build muscle, however our fat percentage will decrease (provided we are eating a healthy diet and not in a surplus of calories) lower the scales.

With strength training muscle mass is increased, whilst decreasing our fat percentage leaving the scales only slightly lower.

So on the face of it we lose more weight from cardiovascular training, this however misses the important part of the additional strength we gain, with both reducing fat percentage.

We should also note that each additional pound of muscle will burn 10-20 calories each day whilst we are just living and breathing.

It’s vital to remember that your composition (body fat and muscle mass) determines how you look not your overall weight…..

3. Lifting weights makes women bulk up


This is simply one of the most frustrating myths, it’s linked to a very 90’s myth (covered in number 5).

First off, should anyone want to get bigger and lift heavy weights, go for it!

For those worried about putting on muscular size, we need to understand how our bodies respond to strength training.

Building muscle, especially for size takes years requires eating adequate calories and specifically training for it. Female’s have a lower testosterone level, a key ingredient to muscle growth so with these two pieces of information alone we can debunk the myth that women bulk up when lifting weights!

What I will add is some of the benefits:

  1. Improve your bone density and help prevent osteoporosis, a degenerative bone disease common in older women
  2. Improve your body composition (increase lean mass and reduce fat mass) – oh you mean number 2 on this list…..
  3. Benefit your mental health
  4. Improve your flexibility and mobility
  5. Make you feel strong, empowered and confident

4.Strength training is for young people only

No way this one wasn’t going to get included, yeah yeah, I know we’ve covered this plenty of times before in these articles!

I’ll keep it short, strength training isn’t just for building muscles, it helps with the following:

  1. Improved Balance and co-ordination
  2. Increased flexibility and range of movement
  3. Decreases the risk of osteoporosis
  4. Helps make daily activities easier

Far too often we see strength training as needing to lift big weights whilst making some questionable noises! However, the reality is that we need to keep our muscles working to assist in all of our other activities.

5. Use light weights and high reps to tone.

Wow, where to begin? – how about the 90’s (ten years ago for someone my age!)

‘High reps to tone your body’

There is nothing wrong with higher reps, in fact they are beneficial in building muscular endurance and are regularly present in workouts with good reason.

When looking at strength training, we need a weight that challenges the muscles, now not saying it has to be brutally heavy, think more around a challenge to keep correct form on reps 9 and 10 of a 10 rep set.

Increasing muscle mass has many benefits including helping to lower body fat with when paired together tone your body.

Important to note here that we really do require a good mix of training, cardio and strength together play an important part in keeping us fit and healthy.

If you’d like more information on how best to structure your workouts, contact team SF on

Introduction into Strength Training

Strength (or resistance) training is, in short, the process of improving our muscles ability to contract and move under load.

Typically, a very suitable reference about squats or a deadlift would fit right in here and would easily demonstrate the principles and benefits of strength and resistance training.

So lets start with standing up from a chair instead, we have to tense muscles in our legs and apply a force to stand, as we age this becomes a little more difficult, depending on our training regime. This is where strength and resistance training enters the chat.

If we were to conduct a sit to stand in the gym, with a small load (plate, kettlebell, dumbbell etc) we can increase the tension the muscles are under meaning they are working harder.

The harder they work the easier the corresponding body weight movement would be due to the increase in size and ability of the muscles.

So many times, conversations are had about ‘strength training’ being for the young peeps and that staying healthy is ‘all I’m really looking for’ after I let a small tear roll down my cheek, the conversation normally goes into different area’s of the day, things like:

  • Getting out of bed
  • Up and down stairs
  • In and out of the car
  • Activities undertaken for their job
  • Hobbies and interests

Normally within these there are parts that could be made easier, and often that could be achieved by improving strength in one or more areas.

Circling back, getting out of bed requires many muscles to work in order, your core, lower back and finally a sit to stand from the edge of the bed. These all require the muscles to be functioning in the best possible way for the movement to be as easy and efficient as possible.

Luckily the landscape of fitness is changing, now more than ever we realise how important strength/resistance training is to our overall wellbeing, ability to carry out daily activities and helping our overall body composition.

To begin with, we should look to introduce exercises that use a variety of muscles, use a lighter weight and concentrate on the correct technique.

Whilst there are many ways to structuring resistance workouts, generally we should:

  1. Ensure we warm up
  2. Use appropriate weights – start lighter
  3. Begin with 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps
  4. Workout for around 45 minutes – less if we are just starting out
  5. Have adequate rest between sets – 45 seconds to a minute
  6. Stretch when we complete our workout
  7. Have a rest day between workouts to ensure we allow our muscles to recover

When considering increasing the weight or volume of training, it doesn’t need to be all at once, for example we could increase the number of sets or the weight. We could also only increase the weight of one of the sets to keep our technique looking good.

For help with your resistance training, either starting out or a refresh to your current program, speak to a member of Team SF –

How Spike Fitness can help everyone

Being a smaller gym has its perks!

We can give everyone more of our time, understand each person and their individual needs, away from the hustle and bustle of a larger facility.

If we need to build confidence, trying new things is so much easier without lots of others being around, and as a bonus the other peeps are always positive and chatty!

We have Team SF members that are returning to exercise, or who require specific exercises due to injury or medical conditions, and we usually find some very inventive exercises!

Understanding where someone is starting is key, every member gets to meet a Personal Trainer to go over their goals and ambitions, prior to having a specific plan written for them, with a complete walk through each exercise.

For those needing support our Personal Trainers are on hand to deliver sessions, ensuring we get the most out of your workout, by pushing you that little bit further than you would normally, or ensuring that everything is done correctly through to just getting you into an exercise pattern and embarking on your fitness journey.

When we need to step it up a notch, we are lucky to actively support National, Regional and County level athletes with their training, through strength and conditioning, flexibility, and mindset.

We love having a wide variety of members and seeing their confidence, ability and fitness improve over time is awesome.

So, no matter where you are on your fitness journey, we can help.

To have a chat with one of Team SF contact us on

Benefits of small group training

Looking for the extra bit of motivation to get fitter?

Small group training offers a friendly atmosphere, where you can share your distaste in the exercises offered up by the instructor!

Training in a group helps build confidence, is a great way to learn new exercises and make gym friends.

Taking all the work out of working out, you can show up, enjoy a training session that is pre-planned to get your heart rate up and work a good selection of your muscles. All whilst meeting like-minded people and having a laugh – in between breathing and some of those involuntary exercise noises that we all make!

Having an instructor to guide you through the exercises helps to build up confidence, ensures you are working the right muscles safely. Even better, you can then use those exercises in your gym workout, knowing you’re doing them with proper form.

You can even try something completely new without the worry of having to know anything!

With other peeps that help you push on through the session, you’re sure to get a great work out that’ll leave you feeling super good about yourself.

So why not give one a go, chat to a member of Team SF for more information