Want to get in shape? First, make sure the numbers add up. Here’s every equation you need to fine-tune your training…


1. Body fat arithmetic

Leave the fat-burning zone to infomercial presenters: for highspeed fat loss, short and nasty is (unfortunately) the way forward. EPOC, or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, means short, intense intervals will leave you burning fat for hours after you train. It’s usually measured with specialist lab equipment, but there’s also a formula for figuring it out, based on how much oxygen 158 athletes burned after exercise lasting anywhere between two minutes and three hours.

ePOC (t) = f(EPOC(t-1), exercise_ intensity(t), dt)

Confused? Don’t be. Essentially, the higher-intensity your exercise, the longer (and higher) the burn. Try it with 10-20-30 training, which University Of Copenhagen researchers discovered to improve performance and health. To do this, run (or row or bike) at a moderate pace for 30 seconds, pick it up slightly for another 20 seconds, then go all-out for a final 10. Repeat four times, rest for two minutes, and then do the whole thing again. You’ll burn fat all day – no slick heart-rate monitor required.


2. Muscle math

Your 1-rep max (1RM) comes in handy for working out what weights to use during regular training sessions. To find it, use this equation, plugging in a weight you can only handle for 10 reps or less. You should get within 2-3kg of your true max, sans the stress of busting your shoulders on one rep.

weight used x (reps done x 0.33 + 1) = your 1RM

Next, settle on a set/rep count for the day. Use Soviet sports scientist A S Prilepin’s figures for building strength (below) to design your sessions: pick a per cent of your 1RM to lift, then decide how many reps you’re going to aim for in each set. The “optimal” number is the ideal rep-range for strength: fewer won’t cause your body to adapt, but more will over stress you.

Percent of 1RM     Reps/Set        Optimal total reps
55-65                      3-6                   24
70-80                      3-6                   18
80-90                      2-4                   15
90+                         1-2                     4
If you’re about to bench 80kg, say, and your 1RM is 100kg, you might want to aim for 4 reps per set – in which case you’d do 4 sets in total (rounding up slightly) – or 2 reps per set, and do 7 or 8 sets. Rest as needed to do all your sets, and let the gains begin…


3. Fluid dynamics

It may feel great after a workout on a hot day, but does throwing a bucket of ice cold water over you actually cool you down? Yes, according to researchers at the University Of Sydney’s Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory. They say by drinking a just-above-freezing 250ml cup of water, you’ll lose nine calories of heat, while the pour-and-evaporate method can disperse up to 145. For best results, use a mix of both.

(9 x D) + (145 x P) = temp loss

Do you need to rehydrate better after the gym? Weigh yourself before and after a session where you don’t drink any water. The difference is your “sweat rate”, or how much you should drink during workouts for optimum performance. Add a ¼ tsp of table salt for a home-made electrolyte boost.

(Pre-BW – Post-BW) x 1,000 = your in-gym H²0 intake


4. Calculus of creatine

Creatine is the backup generator for your muscles: it lets you lift heavier and harder for short intervals. Most firms recommend a “loading” phase, then a “maintenance” protocol – it’s not strictly necessary, but it will get you results quicker. Here’s your new regime (creatine sucks up water, so remember to stay well hydrated):

Loading: Take 0.3g/kg bodyweight for 5-7 days.

Maintenance: Then take 5g daily for 3-4 weeks


5. Vitamin D

Getting enough rays? Well, 10 minutes a day is all your body needs to synthesise vitamin D in the summer but – according to research from the US National Institute of Health – there isn’t enough UVB radiation in the upper latitude’s winter sunshine to get the job done. So supplement with up to 1,000IU a day – less if you’re out in the sun.

1,000IU + 10 mins of sun = your vit D intake


6. Feel the tension

Instead of worrying about 6 reps vs 12, think about how long you’re spending on your set. In a Journal of Physiology study, increasing the “time under tension” for leg extensions upped post-exercise protein synthesis, meaning more muscle. “Aim for 60 seconds per set,” explains trainer James Adamson. “So if you’re doing 10 reps, four seconds down, two up is a good choice.”

reps x tempo = time under tension


7. Number nutrition

Bulking and cutting? So last decade. A new McMasters University study has confirmed that you can lose fat and build muscle at the same time… if you eat enough protein. Men who trained six times a week lost an average of 5kg of fat while adding about 1kg of muscle – but only if they stuck to a high-protein diet, defined as 2.4g per kg of bodyweight, per day.

2.4 x BW = your improved protein intake


8. Living to a prime number

Sit on the floor. Stand up. Now the tricky bit: do it without using your hands, knees or forearms. Flexibility, balance and muscle strength are key predictors of longevity, and this mini-test, created by Brazilian doctor Claudio Gil Araujo, assesses all three. Your “score” starts at 10: subtract 1 point for each support you use, and 0.5 for every loss of balance. If you’re sub-eight, it’s cause for concern, so fix it with the goblet squat. “Hold a kettlebell, dumbbell or heavy rucksack in front of your chest, then sit down into a squat until your knees touch your elbows,” says Adamson. “Do five reps, then hold the fifth at the bottom and push your knees apart with your elbows for five seconds. Repeat twice.” Don’t worry, it gets easier.

10 – L – (B x 0.5) > 8


9. Get a very good grip

Here’s one good reason to get a grip, as well as creating a good first impression when you shake hands: it’s a key predictor of lifespan. According to a study published in The Lancet, every 5kg decrease in grip strength in test subjects was linked to a 16% increase in mortality rate, suggesting that it “might be a particularly good marker of underlying aging processes.” Don’t just grab a set of handgrippers, though – the researchers theorized that grip is successful as an overall predictor of mortality, meaning that you need to focus on full-body gains for the full benefit. Deadlifts will cover every base – hit them up once a week to add more weeks to your grand total.

Grip strength = predictor of life


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