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Tips From Trainer Steve Ramsbottom


He's a fitness expert who pulls no punches when it comes to getting in shape the right way. Find out how Steve Ramsbottom got Hugh Jackman in shape for the movie, X Men II and how his expertise can also help you:

Q: What is your expertise regarding fitness training?

A: We work with a lot of athletes. We do sports-specific training. We do rehabilitation, personal training, etc. I actually started in this field right after the University of Columbia, British Columbia. I took a practicum in the field and just fell in love with it. And then I started off my own company — Human Performance. It was previously owned but I ended up taking it over in January 1999.

Q: How did you get involved in training Hugh Jackman for X-Men II?

Q: How did you get involved in training Hugh Jackman for X-Men II?

A: I basically found out about the job, applied for it and got it. I guess there were quite a few trainers that applied for it but I suppose they thought I'd be a good fit for Hugh.

Q: How do you feel about all the diets on the market?

A: The thing I don't like about fad diets is that they promise "six weeks and guaranteed results." But it's really a lifestyle; whether you are in the gym or just hiking and being active, it's something that always has to be done — you can't just drop it.

I think our society is so driven by speed and everyone is looking for that quick fix and they want it right now. So it is not always the most pleasing thing to hear, "You know what? You are going to have to work out for two years to get what you really want." That sometimes isn't very motivating to people.

Of course, you can see some results in six weeks, but to me, I have failed as a trainer if a client gets really good results for six weeks and then the person is so burned out, they don't work out anymore. And what good does that do them three years down the road? You have to push them to the level they can handle and make sure they don't get hurt.

Q: What differences do you see in the sexes regarding weight training?

A: I wouldn't say the intensities are necessarily different. It all depends on what you are used to. One of the females that I trained is a national level soccer player and she worked every bit as hard as any of the males and is every bit as strong. The main difference that I find is guys want to put on a lot of muscle mass and achieve a very lean look, where females don't want to put on a lot of muscle — they want to have that strong and lean look without putting on a lot of muscle mass.

Q: Do you require a particular nutrition regimen during the training?

A: I start them out with a full assessment; I look at body composition, body fat percentage, flexibility, posture, movement mechanics, agility and cardiovascular fitness, so I get a really good picture of where they are starting from.

And from there I always ask them for a meal plan. So I get them to write out a three to four day meal plan. I will help them tweak up their diet a little bit, maybe cut down on certain areas, add more things and make sure they're getting vegetables and fruit and that kind of stuff. And if they need a full nutritional program then I will send them off to a nutritionist.

Q: Why did you use the slow technique on Hugh? And how long did it take to build him up?

A: Hugh has worked with trainers all over the world before, so I asked him what kind of stuff he did with them; the biggest trick about training is to keep it inconsistent. So the more variables — the more variety in exercises and in tempo and in weight — the more it is going to shock the body.

One of the things Hugh had never done is played with his tempo of training. He had always done one sort of movement, which would be pretty slow, like a two-seconds up, two-seconds down tempo. And so I wanted to really slow down the movement. That would force more recruitment of his muscles and increase the time under tension of those muscles to get him greater results. I'm a big believer in getting proper movement down.

Q: What if you do only aerobics or only weight training?

A: You will get results, to an extent. But if you incorporate both those types of training you will get better results. If you are only doing cardiovascular training, that's good, but it's not going to increase your metabolism as much as strength training will do.

When you do strength training — for anyone wanting to lose weight — i.e., by doing a workout with weights, you are not only going to burn fat during the workout, but you will increase your post-workout metabolism; for about three hours afterward your body is still burning fuel and calories. Which is a huge benefit over what cardiovascular training will do: when you are done doing the exercise, your calorie burning is also done.

Q: What do you recommend when starting a weight training program?

A: I'm a big believer in working from the ground floor up. I think too many people try to lift weights that are too heavy before their body is ready for it.

The safest way, and the way that will produce the best long-term results, is to develop good core strength, good posture, good flexibility and just general baseline conditioning. You really need to get all those first, and then once you have that, you have that foundation for your house, which you can build anything you want with.

So many people get injured when they are strength training because they are missing that link in the process.

Q: What do you tell people who get frustrated about their progress?

A: I tell people it's a lifestyle, and since most people don't have the time or the funds to work with a trainer five or six times a week, what should be focused on when you start training is how you feel.

If your clothes start to feel a little looser or you start to feel a bit better, be happy with that. I find for most people it generally takes about three months before you really start dropping weight and seeing a lot of really visual changes. Some people, like Hugh, have great genetics on their side; Hugh adapted very, very quickly to the training program and he had the time and the resources to do more than most people can.

But that is really what I try to tell my clients: worry about the process and let the outcome take care of itself.

Q: What do you think can be done about obesity in the country?

A: I don't know what it is like in the United States but I know in Canada physical education programs are being cut — in some schools it is no longer mandatory. I guess financially those cuts may bring short-term rewards to the government, but I think long term you are not creating a platform for people to learn how to be active.

I think what needs to happen is, since not all people are athletes, there need to be programs where you can learn how to hike or canoe, as well as offer soccer, etc. You can be active in different ways; it does not have to be game-oriented.

I think physical education classes need to stay in schools and they need to be tapered more toward the whole student body, not just athletes. As a kid, that is where you really learn, and if you learn to be active as a kid, chances are a lot better you are going to take that on into adulthood.

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