Victoria Beckham surprised us all when she shared a picture of herself nailing an overhead squat with an Olympic bar recently. She's given various interviews about her exercise routine in the past, and it sounds like it once revolved almost entirely around running, so evidence of her new exercise approach was pivotal.
Why did she change her ways? We spoke to Bobby Rich, a performance coach and fitness consultant who has worked with Beckham for six months, to find out. Rich was recruited by Beckham after she hit a fitness wall.
"It was becoming apparent to her that the benefits from her own training routines had become minimal," he told us. "Despite spending daily 90-plus minute sessions in the gym, she was purely maintaining her fitness levels rather than improving in other meaningful ways. She was ready for a change."
Beckham was admittedly apprehensive about lifting weights. "It was a challenge Victoria was happy for me to prove her wrong about," Rich explained. "And her concerns were short-lived."
Here are all of Rich and Beckham's secrets to getting fitness results.
1.Mix up your routine
Yes, consistency is the backbone of progress, but “muscle confusion” also applies. It’s the idea of switching up your exercise approach to avoid hitting plateaus, and Rich practices a similar school of thought.
"She came to me with an already strong and impressive cardiovascular and muscular endurance foundation," he says. "However, weightlifting and its benefits were not something she was overly familiar with. That being said, it was a style of training that she approached with the same rigour and dedication as her other fitness pursuits until that point and she hasn’t looked back."
2. Make measurable goals
There’s no use in loose targets. Make them specific and quantifiable – Rich says this will help you make progress, while nothing compares to the satisfaction of completely checking off points on your list.
"Proper strength training maps out a plan of increased reps, weights, and modes of movement," he explains. "While Victoria was used to smashing her workouts week in and week out, she didn’t necessarily have measurable goals the way that she does now."
Before, Beckham's success was "related to the number of sessions or hours she spent in the gym per week," says Rich, but now they measure her output within each session, whether that be increasing her range of movement, or increasing the weight she lifts during strength sessions.
Doing the same will also give you more confidence when it comes to striving for personal bests – you’ll be able to look back at what you’re already capable of.
3. Don’t overdo it
It’s natural to think that the more you do, the better you’re doing, but Beckham knows that’s not necessarily the case. In a previous interview with the Guardian, she shared that she once did a 45-minute run, followed by a 30-min leg session, 30-min arms, and "loads of planks and that kind of thing" for her core, every day. What she didn’t know was that less is sometimes more, but Rich has set her on the straight and narrow.
"The biggest change in her training week was introducing structure and progression," Rich says. "We did this by incorporating training cycles, or blocks of time that focus on different aspects of fitness (improving strength, endurance, etc) which would allow her to improve, peak, maintain, rest and repeat.
"It’s not too dissimilar to how professional athletes train and is something the average person should look to do if they want to maintain fitness throughout the year and avoid burnout.
"Depending on what block of training we’re carrying out, the sessions vary anywhere between 35 to 90 minutes. An important point I wanted her to understand – and that most people struggle with – is that a 35-minute session can at times be more beneficial than a 90-minute session. But we got over that hurdle pretty quickly."
4. Adapt to your lifestyle
We all know life can occasionally (or often) get in the way, and Beckham is no different. Rich says they change the way they train to suit how busy she is, what her goals are, and how confident she is with the kind of movement they’re working on.
"We have identified what we call 'key moments' throughout the year and have used them to create peaks and troughs," Rich tells us. "Examples of this can be increasing activity during summer or busy travel months for her.
"I then ensure she takes her time adapting when entering a new block of training, and resting accordingly between sets and exercises. It’s all these elements that have a bearing on training frequency and length of sessions."
If you ignore external circumstances (think less sleep thanks to an intense work week, or less time for longer sessions due to social commitments) then chances are you’ll hit burnout.
5. Take your time
It can be daunting trying weightlifting for the first time, and Beckham felt the same. She relied largely on feedback from Rich, but for those who don’t have access to a PT, it’s all about time.
"Feedback is key for any coach-client relationship if you want to create change and optimal performance. By default, when I take on Beckham’s feedback and respond accordingly, I’m creating trust and building her confidence," Rich says.
"But without time we have nothing. For many months behind closed doors, Beckham has been consistently putting in the work, and she’s now reaping the rewards of that solid foundation. It’s exciting as a coach when your client gets to the point where they see the change, and it motivates them on a whole new level."
6. Have patience
Beckham is no stranger to a bit of hard work, and that includes her latest Olympic bar achievement. "Trust me when I say it was not something Beckham ever thought she would ever be doing six months ago," Rich tells us. "But by the time she gripped the Olympic bar, having enough strength was not a thought that was remotely close to entering her mind.
"We started small with targeted accessory work, using PVC pipes, resistance bands, dumbbells, and movement that was conducive to building functional strength, along with exercises that would use both the upper and lower extremities in sync. We built up to it."
7. Reap the rewards of rest
It might seem like Beckham is always on the go, but Rich ensures she takes time out when it’s needed.
"Rest is key, and an absolute must," he tells us. "Without adequate recovery you can’t and won’t perform to the best of your ability. When we skip rest days in favour of exercising, we dilute our already low energy levels and risk injury due to our body working overtime."
8. Master your mobility
Attempt to build strength without mobility and you’re basically setting yourself up for failure. It falls in the same camp as flexibility, strength, power, and aerobic fitness – it's an attribute and is defined as ‘the ability to actively achieve extended ranges of motion’.
"Mobility is key and a must in each and every session prior to lifting," Rich says. "I do this alongside a progressive warm up, and between warming up effectively and activating the muscles you are about to engage, it’s the smartest thing you can teach yourself to get used to doing."
9. Eat for your body clock
When it comes to fuelling her workouts, Rich has one non-negotiable for Beckham: eating at regular times.
"Everyone has different preferences and dietary requirements but one thing I do ask for is consistency of when my clients eat their meals," he tells us. "Understanding your body clock and creating healthy habits around mealtimes makes you more likely to understand your energy levels and avoid under/overeating or crashing."
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