Ignite your fitness

Women can’t get enough of Alice Jane’s strength workouts. It’s why Fitness First picked her to be a part of the elite team designing its new SQUAD program. Tony Sarno reports.

A personal trainer at Fitness First Bondi Platinum, Alice Jane has more clients than she can handle. We’ve also lost track of the number of times she’s been recommended to the magazine as someone who’s truly figured out how to make strength training work for women.

Weights have been part of men’s training forever, but as more women add them to their exercise routines, trainers like Alice are becoming the new stars. It’s why she’s been selected by Fitness First to be part of a new elite team of experts designing its new SQUAD program, which will be offering members workouts and nutrition packages to help guide their fitness journeys.

To showcase what SQUAD will be offering, we asked Alice to do a workout for women that embodies her training philosophy. She came up with a simple yet devastatingly effective set of kettlebell exercises that will make you lean, toned and fit. It will work for blokes as much as for the ladies and has the blessing of National Fitness Manager Michael Cunico, who says: “If you want a state-of-the-art workout that you can perform at any Fitness First club at any time, then this one is for you. It will build strength, stability and movement capacity in many key movement patterns, while simultaneously burning through body fat!”

Alice was honing her workouts well before she became a PT. An elite junior ballet dancer, she was focused on a ballet career until the age of 16, when she decided she couldn’t face the privations of that life and left the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts to return home to Canberra.

Ballet taught her how to train her body and stick to commitments, she says. So when she decided to take up personal training after entering (and winning) a Canberra fitness model competition, she realised she was very good at it.

Within months, her small business in Canberra was booming, but she decided she wanted the Bondi Beach vibe, so she packed up and left. At Fitness First Bondi Platinum in Sydney, it didn’t take long for word to get around that she got results and soon she was working 12- to 14-hour days.

One of her clients is Millie, who works in law, says she went on Facebook and asked people to recommend a personal trainer for a beginner’s strength program.

“And, you know, Bondi is like 70% personal trainers, so I figured that I would get some good responses,” Millie says. “I ended up going with Alice because everyone said she knew what she was doing. Alice definitely does, and you can tell that from her own physique as well and the way she talks about exercise.”

Given all the praise, we ask Alice what’s the secret sauce behind her training? She laughs, saying it’s different for every client. “The solution for someone who’s been sedentary their whole life is not the same as for someone else. But if I were to point to one thing as a ‘secret’, it’s consistency.”

Consistency & small changes

Elaborating, Alice adds: “It’s small changes over the long term that give you the best result, rather than quick fixes which you can’t sustain, like fad diets and so on. In the long term it’s the small changes that will change your life and your physique.”

When made consistently, small changes make you continually improve, she says, and when you’re always improving, training is fun. Her clients agree. Steph Aslanidis says of Alice, “She gets me in the right frame of mind – it’s not a drag when I go there, I am actually excited to do it. She is always so positive and uplifting, and you can tell she wants to be there as well.”

Step outside the comfort zone

But here’s Alice’s real secret: although she asks for small changes, each should also be a small step out of your comfort zone.

“That’s a big one,” she says. “When new clients come to me and say they have been training for months and have seen no results, I say, ‘What have you been doing? Is it really that hard? Have you really been pushing yourself?’”

Another one of Alice’s clients, Jessica Rolfe, says: “No matter what, she pushes you. For me, I find that I can sometimes be a bit lazy and not know my full potential, so without realising it, she’s pushing me to that next limit so that I can lift that higher weight, or do that next rep.”

Be versatile

She might be known for her strength programs, but Alice uses all of the training disciplines with her clients. She believes the versatility of her training is one of her strengths. “I’m very versatile, so I’m not the powerlifting coach, I’m not the weight loss coach, I’m not the HIIT coach. But I’m going to make you good at every single one of those things. I’m going to make you an all-round versatile person who can do everything.”


THE SQUAD TEAM

Alice is one of six Fitness First experts who make up the SQUAD, a team creating six-week personalised programs with workout and meal plans to help you achieve your fitness goals. In other words, Fitness First is providing members with the concentrated expertise of their very best people. They include the following:

Michael Cunico: The National Fitness Manager is one of Australia’s foremost experts on fitness and a regular speaker at major fitness conferences around the world. He’s spent most of his career working directly with trainers and instructors, and has delivered training to thousands of trainers and instructors globally. He’s responsible for driving the strategic direction of the Personal Training and Group Exercise departments, and oversees some 2500 fitness professionals.

Stephanie Bruckner: A vastly experienced personal trainer, Steph is a holistic health coach and Nike Master Trainer. She’s also a former dancer like Alice and is often courted by the media and sponsors for her views on health and fitness.

Masa Yamaguchi: A Hollywood actor some of the time, Masa is a Fitness First PT specialising in a broad range of fitness disciplines. His strength and agility have helped him land various movie roles, particularly those involving stunts. Masa was also picked from thousands of people to compete on Australian Ninja Warrior this year on Nine.

Kathleen Allaeume: An exercise physiologist and sports nutritionist and author, Kathleen will be familiar to readers of the magazine as one of our long-time nutrition experts. She has a Bachelor of Exercise Science and a Masters in Human Nutrition. One of her strengths is her professional yet easy-to-understand advice and her passion for translating “sciency jargon” into useful, bite-size pieces of information.

Max Dimarco: Max is a PT at Fitness First St Leonards who specialises in strength training. He runs training sessions that are fun, engaging and high energy, and is known for insane exercises like the 180-degree push-up.

 


THE SQUAD PROGRAMS

SQUAD starts on 15 October and offers two plans:

High performance : You don’t have to be a professional athlete to train like one. This multi-disciplined program takes a page from an athlete’s playbook to build a strong, defined body and push you to reach your personal best. With an emphasis on strength, power, speed, agility and mobility, this plan will take your fitness to the next level.

Transformation: This program supports weight loss goals and helps to build lean muscle by introducing high-quality movements. It also aims to change people’s habits for the better, believing that while motivation is temporary, habits are forever.

PROGRAM DETAILS

The cost of the six-week SQUAD program is $99, while an option for two sessions with a PT is $179. You’ll get weekly workout and meal plans delivered to your inbox over six weeks. In addition, there will be exclusive weekly training sessions with your SQUAD leader, as well as access to health and fitness advice from our leading experts.


The Alice Jane kettlebell workout

This workout is an example of what to expect from the SQUAD programs. It’s designed to build strength, increase mobility and burn fat, and it only requires two kettlebells. You won’t find a simpler, more effective workout, which also comes with the imprimatur of one of Fitness First’s very top trainers, Alice Jane.

The workout meal plan

In the SQUAD program we’ll be providing comprehensive weekly meal plans and nutrition insights from experts to support the training programs on offer. To give you an example of what to expect, nutritionist Kathleen Alleaume has created a free seven-day meal plan to maximise your gains from Alice Jane’s workout. Get the sampler at getthere.fitnessfirst.com.au/meal-plan

 1  Halo

6 sets, 2 reps

The purpose of this exercise is to create some movement in the thoracic area of the spine – we’re not aiming for maximal load. Take a light kettlebell by the handle and simply roll it around your head. Avoid the temptation to drive your head forward to make it easier to roll the kettlebell around. If the kettlebell is physically too big to allow this to happen, you can use a 2.5 or 5kg weight plate instead.

 2  Squat

6 sets, 4-6 reps

Place the kettlebells in the rack position, just resting between your bicep and forearm. Keep long through the spine and as you descend, keep the knees tracking in line with your toes. Your depth will be dictated by your own mobility, but aim to drop your hips lower than your knees if possible.

 3  Single-arm clean, squat and press

6 sets, 2 reps

Mastering the clean movement is essential for any serious kettlebell workout. To complete this movement, use a similar motion to the swing exercise (see move 4, right) to place the kettlebell in the rack position. Once there, drop down into your squat position, drive through the feet and forcefully drive up, continuing to push the kettlebell overhead.

 4  Skiers’ swings

6 sets, 4-6 reps

Place the kettlebells on the floor about an arm’s length in front of your feet. As you lift them, swing your arms back, rocking your hips as opposed to squatting down. Proceed with caution as you stand while swinging the kettlebells forward with palms facing in.

 5  Clean to push press

6 sets, 4-6 reps

Once in the rack position, press overhead with this movement, which is great for building full body strength and power. It requires a quick “dip and drive” movement from the legs, and as the drive commences, you follow this with an overhead press. To really execute this movement well, pause at the top of the exercise to ensure you’re in control of the kettlebells.

 6  Bottoms-up squat

6 sets, 4-6 reps

Perform movement 2, but this time place the kettlebells in the bottoms-up position, with the “bell” sitting on top of the handles. This requires a tremendous amount of upper-body stability and crushing grip to hold them in place. If this is too challenging, change from the double kettlebell version to a single bottoms-up kettlebell.

 7  Abductor rockbacks

10 sets, 1 rep

This is a great movement that’s designed to improve your hip mobility. Place a mat under your knees and take them out as wide as is comfortable. Lean your torso forward and place your body weight onto your hands or elbows and simply rock your hips back and forth.


Training tips

  • When performing cleans, keep your grip on the kettlebell loose, as this will help you transition from the single-arm swing into the rack position.
  • The rotation of the wrist is an important part of successful cleans. As you reach the bottom of the swing, your wrist will be internally rotated with your thumb pointing backward. As the next phase of the swing begins, you will gradually rotate your wrist externally with your thumb again pointing behind you. The kettlebell should roll around the outside of your wrist, as opposed to flipping over the top of it.
  • Unlike the double-handed swing where the kettlebell travels an arm’s length away from you, in a clean, you want to keep the kettlebell close to your body while keeping the torso, arm, and grip relaxed.