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She got herself out of a rut.
Victoria Beckham surprised us all when she shared a snap of herself nailing an overhead squat with an Olympic bar. She’s given various interviews about her exercise routine in the past, and it sounded like it once revolved almost entirely around running, so evidence of her new exercise approach was pretty pivotal.
She shares her newfound love for strength training with husband David, too. He recently dropped a video of the pair competing in a strength challenge on Instagram, showing Victoria and David planking opposite each other as fitness coach Bobby Rich oversees the action. A slew of lighted buttons are placed in a line between them, and the couple races to tap the buttons as they light up while staying in plank positions.
A post shared by David Beckham (@davidbeckham)
‘Let the games begin 🏆 @victoriabeckham #HarperSeven ❤️ @mrbobbyrich the referee,’ David wrote in the caption.
So, why did Victoria switch to a strength training-first exercise approach? In a bid to prove the benefits of strength training to you, we caught up with Bobby Rich, a performance coach and fitness consultant who has worked with VB for six months. Bobby was recruited by VB 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+ 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.’
Victoria was admittedly apprehensive about the whole “lift weights and become the Hulk” narrative (our words, not hers), too. ‘It was a challenge Victoria was happy for me to prove her wrong about,’ Bobby explained. ‘And her concerns were short lived.’
Convinced? Here are all of Bobby (and Victoria’s) secrets to getting results.
Consistency is the backbone of progress, you’re right, but “muscle confusion” also applies. It’s the idea of switching up your exercise approach to avoid hitting plateaus, and, as above, Bobby practices a similar school of thought.
‘Victoria came to me with an already strong and impressive cardiovascular and muscular endurance foundation,’ he adds. ‘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.’
Branch out of your comfort zone and you’ll come up trumps. Just like VB.
There’s no use in loose targets. Make them specific and quantifiable – Bobby says this’ll 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,’ Bobby 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, Victoria’s success was ‘related to the number of sessions or hours she spent in the gym per week,’ so says Bobby, 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 PBs – you’ll be able to look back at what you’re already capable of.
It’s natural to think that the more you do, the better you’re doing, but VB 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. Really. What she didn’t know was that less is sometimes more, but Bobby has set her on the straight and narrow.
‘The biggest change in her training week was introducing structure and progression,’ Bobby 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!’
We all know life can occasionally get in the way, and VB is no different. Bobby says they change the way they train to suit how busy Victoria 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,’ Bobby 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, resting accordingly between sets and exercises. It’s all these elements that have a bearing on training frequency and length of sessions.’
Ignore external circumstances (think less sleep thanks to an intense work week, or less time for longer sessions due to social commitments) and chances are you’ll hit burnout. Not the one.
It can be daunting trying weightlifting for the first time, and VB felt the same. She relied largely on feedback from Bobby, 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 Victoria’s feedback and respond accordingly, I’m creating trust and building her confidence,’ Bobby says.
‘But without time we have nothing. For many months behind closed doors Victoria 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.’
Vic is no stranger to a bit of hard graft, and that includes her latest Olympic bar achievement. She turned up, and it paid off. Simple.
‘Trust me when I say it was not something Victoria ever thought she would ever be doing 6 months ago,’ Bobby 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.’
Repeat after us: All good things come to those who wait. All good things come to those who wait.
It might seem like VB is always on the go, but Bobby 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.’
You can find more information on how and when to take a break in our full guide to rest days.
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’.
Here’s an example that might help you understand: without mobile shoulders, you won’t be able to lift an Olympic bar as high as VB did, because your shoulders won’t have full range of motion. With us?
‘Mobility is key and a must in each and every session prior to lifting,’ Bobby 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.’
Here are some handy and effective mobility exercises to add into your roster.
When it comes to fuelling her workouts, Bobby has one non-negosh for VB: 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.’