NEW Research : Drinking Green Tea Improves Aerobic Capacity

A new study finds  that daily tea catechin consumption (combined with a twice weekly cycling program) improved aerobic capacity significantly in a group a Japanese males.

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Previous studies found that dietary supplementation with tea catechins combined with exercise improved endurance capacity in mice.

This is the first study (that I could find on PubMed) aimed to test the aerobic capacity of humans supplementing with tea catechins.

This new (8-week) study conducted on sixteen Japanese non-athlete males shows that daily tea catechin consumption (500 ml test beverage with 570 mg tea catechins) combined with a twice weekly cycling program improved aerobic capacity significantly when compared to the placebo group.

  • Aerobic capacity was evaluated by indirect calorimetry and near-infrared spectroscopy during graded cycle exercise.

  • Catechin beverage consumption was associated with a significantly higher ventilation threshold during exercise and a higher recovery rate of oxygenated hemoglobin and myoglobin levels after graded cycle exercise when compared to subjects receiving the placebo beverage.

These results indicate that daily consumption of tea catechins increases aerobic capacity when combined with semiweekly light exercise, which may be due to increased skeletal muscle aerobic capacity.

Disclaimer:

This research was conducted by researchers who work for the Biological Science Laboratories of Kao Corporation….who just happen to sell a green tea fitness supplement beverage.

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Which doesn’t mean that the science is bogus. Just something to be aware & skeptical of…just like any good scientist.

In green tea’s favor is a ton of science showing a wide range of health benefits associated with green tea catechins.  IMHO, it isn’t unlikely that green tea catechins probably have a positive effect on your aerobic capacity. There just isn’t any science (other than this study) on this subject.

But there will be. If you’re interested, I have set up an PubMed feed for “green tea & aerobic capacity” Click on the link and you will have access to the latest published research on how green tea catechins improve (or don’t) aerobic capacity.

 

Reference

Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry Journal

More Proof – HIIT Better than Cardio

I-LOVE-HIITAs a personal trainer with 25 yrs of experience AND as a certified fitness junkie, I love HIIT because…

  1. it works really, really well to help my clients get fit really, really fast,
  2. it helps my clients drop excess body-fat really, really fast
  3. and because it is really simple to program HIIT workouts and it fits into the busiest of schedules really, really well.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees HIIT like I do. 

There is a large group of trainers and fitness “experts” who…

  • think that low intensity cardio is superior to HIIT for developing aerobic fitness, and
  • fear that the High Intensity aspect of HIIT is dangerous to the health of their clients.

Their concern is that people with less than perfect cardiac function are at imminent risk of suffering a heart attack if their trainer puts them on a HIIT protocol. Which makes sense….if you haven’t read a medical journal in the past few years and still believe that low intensity cardio is the only safe way to improve cardiac function..

However, if you’re like me and don’t want to wait for our mainstream health & fitness to catch up with modern science, I invite you to…

1. Take a look at some of my articles about HIIT and Cardiac Function

2.  Take a look at the latest research investigating HIIT and building a healthy heart

In a study just published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, researchers tested the effectiveness of HIIT workouts to improve the VO2max/VO2peak of 112 patients with coronary heart disease.

NoteVO2max/VO2peak is considered to be the gold standard for aerobic fitness, and aerobic fitness is believed to be the best indicator of cardiovascular health and a well-established predictor of total and cardiovascular mortality in subjects with and without coronary heart disease.

This means that exercise protocols which drastically improve VO2max/VO2peak are to be seen as powerful tools to help the medical (and fitness) communities prevent coronary heart disease and extend life.

In this study, the participants were divided into three groups based upon exercise intensity – as determined by percentage of HRmax.

  • <88%,
  • 88–92%, and
  • >92% of HRmax

The goal of the study was to determine if higher relative intensity during exercise intervals would elicit a greater
increase in VO2peak…leading to greater & faster improvements in aerobic fitness and in theory improve cardiac related mortality rates.

Here’s what happened

  • No adverse effects occurred during training
  • Overall, VO2peak increased by 11.9 % after 23.4 exercise sessions
  • Higher intensity exercise groups showed the greatest increase in VO2peak
  • 3.1 mL for the <88% group
  • 3.6 mL for the 88–92% group, and
  • 5.2 mL,for the >92% of HRmax group

hiit heart function

These findings build upon previous research which shows that the beneficial cardiovascular effects of aerobic exercise are intensity dependent, with higher intensity exercise showing a superior effect…leading the study authors to conclude that  “CHD patients who are able to perform high intensity training should aim at increasing exercise intensity above 92% of HRmax and thereby possibly achieve even greater improvements in aerobic capacity”.

What does this mean for you?

  • If you’re a CHD patient, you need to talk to your cardiologist about HIIT training…keeping in mind of course that CHD patients need to keep a close eye on how everything they do – exercise, nutrition, lifestyle, stress, etc – can impact the function of their CV system.
  • If you’re not a CHD patient, it means that if you want to improve your aerobic fitness and avoid dropping dead of a heart attack, you NEED to start doing some form of HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training.
  • And if you’re a doctor or fitness expert who still believes that low intensity cardio is the best way to improve aerobic function, you need to put down your preconceptions and pick up a scientific journal every now and then.

Reference

  • Moholdt T, et al. The higher the better? Interval training intensity in coronary heart disease. J Sci Med Sport
    (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2013.07.007
  • Rognmo O, Moholdt T, Bakken H et al. Cardiovascular risk of high- versus
    moderate-intensity aerobic exercise in coronary heart disease patients. Circulation 2012; 126(12):1436–1440.
  • . Kodama S, Saito K, Tanaka S et al. Cardiorespiratory fitness as a quantitative predictor of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events in healthy men and women: a meta-analysis. JAMA 2009; 301(19):2024–2035.

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The Components of Physical Fitness

What is physical fitness?

You will receive some very different answers depending upon who you ask.

To a person with a medical condition, physical fitness may be a day without pain or a day where they have the energy to walk down to the corner store. To the weekend warrior, it is being able to compete with his friends and still be able to go to work on Monday.

To an Olympic calibre gymnast, physical fitness is performing an Iron Cross. The flexibility of an accomplished yoga practitioner is a display of physical fitness. As is the endurance of a triathelete. Or the power of an Olympic style weightlifter. Or the speed of a sprinter. Or the agility of a badminton player…

They are all right and they are all wrong.

For their particular needs, there is an appropriate level of adequate fitness. The weekend warrior has no need to perform an Iron Cross. Or a gymnast to run a marathon.

The decathalete / heptahalete is supposed to represent the ultimate of physical fitness. While the other athletes are specialists, these multi-sports athletes train to develop the ultimate combination of the different components that make up physical fitness.

So that is where we will go. By breaking down physical fitness into it’s components, we will arrive at a better understanding of physical fitness.

The 5 Components of Physical Fitness

1. Muscular Strength

This component of physical fitness deals specifically with the performance of the body’s skeletal muscles.

Your skeletal muscles contract and stretch in order to produce movement. Simple.

How they produce that movement is less simple. Your body’s muscles are highly adaptable. They will react to the stresses that you place upon them. Sit on the couch and they will atrophy. Try and run fast and they adapt to produce faster contractions. Lift heavy objects and they will increase their ability to produce maximum strength.

One way to organize these different types of strength is in relation to time.

Maximum muscular strength is the ability to produce the most amount of force regardless of time. That big guy at your gym that is ALWAYS bench pressing may have a high level of maximum strength. He can produce a large amount of force (to move that heavy barbell) but he does it relatively SLOOOWWWLY.

Maximum muscular endurance is the ability to produce a smaller amount of force, but do it for a long time. A marathon runner has a high level of muscular endurance. His bodyweight requires less force to move than a heavy barbell, but he is able to move that weight for 2+ hours non-stop.

Maximum muscular speed is the ability to produce muscular movement very quickly. A hummingbird’s wings are the epitome of speed.

Muscular power is a combination of maximum strength and speed. An Olympic weightlifter is a great example of power. So are high jumpers and sprinters. Another way of looking at power would be to use our weightlifter friend from the gym.

If he bench presses 300 lbs but takes 3 seconds to perform the lift, his power output is 100 lbs. per second. However, if he drops the weight to 200 lbs and performs the lift in 1 second, his power output shoots up to 200 lbs. per second.

If that wasn’t confusing enough, different types of muscular strength rely on the development of the 4 other components of physical fitness.

Next Page…Neuro-Muscular Co-ordination

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A Solution for Skinny – Fat Runner Syndrome

In spite of two major knee reconstructions, I love running long distances.

Even though I am built like an hypermuscled Clydesdale, I still love throwing on a pair of shoes, hitting the trails and watching the world slow down as I ground out the miles. Aside from the numerous health & fitness benefits, I love how I “feel” when I run.

So, I can understand why a LOT of runners:

  • Focus exclusively on running
  • Ignore the other components of physical fitness
  • Allow muscle mass to waste away
  • And end up with a Skinny-Fat body

But…it doesn’t have to be that way.

It is possible for long distance runners to hold onto a decent amount of muscle mass and avoid looking like a anorexic Hollywood actress

Here’s how.

Nutrition

  • The Paleo Diet should form the base of your eating plan. The high nutritient : calorie ratio makes it the best choice for repairing muscular damage brought on by your workouts.
  • Fish oil and a quality green food are two base supplements that I recommend to all clients – runners or not.
  • While Paleo is your best choice throughout the day, when it comes to your pre & peri-workout nutrition, Paleo carbs (except for fruit juice) aren’t going to work. Too much fiber, slow digestion, full belly. Not good when you’re running for miles & miles.
  • What you need is Sugar and BCAAs before, during & after each work – cardio & resistance.
  • Buying tip – My favorite BCCA supplements are Scivation XTEND and Biotest Surge Workout Fuel.
  • Supplement daily with Creatine. Improved ATP storage. Improved muscle cell hydration. Better looking muscles. What else do you want?
  • Buying tip – Choose a micronized creatine powder from a reputable brand

Training

Here’s where we stimulate muscle growth.

And we’re going to use either of these two programs to do that.

But, we’re going to make some modifications:

  1. You’re going to do a maximum of two weightlifting workouts per week. You pick which bodyparts you want to work on.
  2. You’re not going to do the leg workouts during your running season.

I have tried to have clients do both and it almost never works. Without a pile of performance enhancing drugs, your legs won’t recover from the combination of weight lifting & running.

Post Workout Recovery Techniques

  • Post-Workout Carb/Protein Shake
  • Hot/Cold Contrast Showers
  • Fish Oils
  • Meditation / Sleep
  • Epsom Salt Baths
  • Ice
  • Massage
  • TENS
  • Chiropractic / Acupuncture
  • Traumeel

Sleep

GET 8 HOURS SLEEP!!!!

And consider switching to a “barefoot” running technique

Ever since I switched to…

  1. running in barefoot / minimalist shoes and
  2. landing on my forefoot / midfoot instead of using the standard “heel-toe” running gait

…my knee pain & shin splints have disappeared.

Well, there you go.

A solution for Skinny-Fat Runner Syndrome.

Follow the plan and within no time, you’ll be a lean-muscular runner.

 

 

Reebok ZigTech = Run Faster Longer

Over the past couple of months, I have been beta-testing a pair of Reebok ZigTech running shoes.

And as much as I hate to admit it, I have become a big fan of my wild looking Zigs.

I hate to admit it because I am a big believer in minimalist style training shoes that force the muscles in your feet to do some actual work. I also can’t stand that high-end trunning shoes are sold mainly on hype. They promise a lot but usually deliver very little.

And that’s exactly what I assumed about the ZigTechs when I was contacted by a PR company who represents Reebok.

They wanted to know if I would be interested in reviewing some of their gear for Health Habits.

And while my official policy is to only review products that I like enough to purchase myself as well as recommend to my clients, I decided to give them a try because I was looking to get back into running some real distances and I needed to find a new pair of shoes that would allow my poor surgically reconstructed knees to survive a “run” without swelling up.

And boy am I glad I did.

ZigTech Shoes : The Good

  • Whether it was on an elliptical cardio trainer, a treadmill or outdoors on the frozen Canadian tundra, the Zigs allowed me to increase my mileage while making life much easier on my knees. Also, shin splints were reduced by 84.73%.
  • Comparing apples to apples, my performances on the elliptical & the treadmill improved by around 10% over the past 2 months.
  • Lateral mobility was good during cross-training workouts. I was concerned about this initially.
  • I thought my red & black versions looked pretty snazzy.

ZigTech Shoes : The Bad

  • There was some heel slippage during some of my resistance workouts. I fixed this problem by switching to a “Heel Lock” lacing pattern.

ZigTech Shoes : The Interesting

  • Unlike running shoes equipped with springs, air bags, gel paks etc, the idea behind ZigTech is that the sole absorbs the impact of heel strike and rebounds that energy horizontally along the length of the shoe propelling the athlete forward with each step. That’s the theory. And while I didn’t have some fancy-schmancy lab equipment to test that theory, it did feel like that…like I was being pushed forward. Kinda weird, but pretty cool.

Conclusion

While I am still a big believer in wearing barefoot/minimalist footwear, I like running better in my ZigTechs.

So, here’s my plan:

  • minimalist shoes during the day and during most workouts.
  • Zigtechs when I am running
health fitness exercise healthhabits workout

Results v.s. Dogma

Being a big fitness geek, I spend an inordinate amount of time researching anything & everything fitness.

And over the years, I have come up with some fairly solid opinions on what I perceive are the best ways to get fit, strong, lean, etc.

  • I believe that the cardio junkies at your gym could really use a dose of HIIT / Tabata / HIRT training.
  • I believe that the Paleo Diet is fantastic for both your health & your love handles
  • I believe that mobility training is more important than flexibility training.
  • I believe that lifting heavy stuff is good for everyone.
  • I believe in challenging yourself
  • I believe in having fun while I exercise
  • I believe that most exercise machines suck
  • I believe that movements are more important than muscles

However, I also believe that results are more important than dogma.

  • If my super-amazing Paleo Diet isn’t giving you the body that you want, make some changes.
  • If months of nausea inducing Tabata workouts isn’t helping to lower your way-too-high blood pressure, then throw in some long, slow, boring cardio.
  • If your knees fill with fluid after each & every squat workout….stop doing squats.

In essence, if your goals & your actions don’t match up, you are left with two options.

  1. Change your goals
  2. Change your actions.

For example…

Recently, I have been entertaining the idea of competing in one of these Tough Guy races.

And after discussing the race with my two (2) surgically reconstructed knees, we concluded that I am going to need to shed a whole lot of muscle mass and improve my cross country running technique if I want my knees to survive this thing.

So, starting this week, I changed my workout to include more long distance cardio.

And because my knees aren’t up to an hour of running, I began by using this quasi elliptical/jogging machine we have at the gym. It’s easy on the knees & it comes pretty close to mimicking a true running motion.

New Goals : New Workout

Unfortunately, it also caused some of my workout buddies to freak out.

The sight of me grinding out the miles on my human-sized hamster wheel was enough to actually make some of them upset.

Seriously…it was weird.

It was like I had betrayed some sort of unspoken agreement to never do any form of endurance training.

Weird.

Dieting or Healthy Eating

Health Habits Workout – Week 19 – Cardio / HIIT Workouts

I like to visualize Ben Johnson crushing Carl Lewis when I do my HIIT sprints

Goal:

More fat loss

Equipment:

Anything you want…go running/jogging, ride a bike or use any of the cardio equipment in your gym…exercise bike, treadmill, elliptical, stepper…

Warm-Up

10 min gradually increasing the intensity level to a point that is approx. 60% of your maximum intensity (100% is a full out sprint)

The Workout

Do as many 10 second sprints in 20 minutes as possible

My personal best is 52

  • 1 sprint per min (10:50) = 20 sprints
  • 2 sprint per min (10:20) = 40 sprints
  • 3 sprint per min (10:10) = 60 sprints

Follow this up with 10-30 min of cardio at 60% of maximum intensity

.

Stretch, shower & go home

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p.s. Let me know how you did on the sprints.

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HIIT Kicks Cardio's Butt

ben johnson crushes carl lewis
I like to visualize Ben Johnson crushing Carl Lewis when I do my HIIT sprints

So, there I was.

I had just finished a set of killer HIIT sprints….when the Lance Armstrong clone to my left asked me “what’s the deal with that workout”?

I think I croaked something about anaerobic this and EPOC that…and was about to hop off the bike when he said…

“that’s just a fad..like Atkins. If you want to get fit, you HAVE to do cardio”

Arrrgggghhhh!

Stifling my hulk-like rage, I asked…

HIIT hulk

“What do you mean I have to do cardio?”

From there, he proceeded to tell me why cardio rocks and why high intensity training (HIIT, HIRT, resistance training) sucks.

Double arggghhhhh!

Hulk (me) was getting mad.

But, instead of smashing, I flipped him one of my business cards (along with a certain finger) and suggested he read the following study which shows (once again) how HIIT kicks cardio butt

And here’s the study.

According to the researchers, high intensity interval training (HIIT) is better than traditional endurance training for improving:

  • Athletic performance
  • Metabolic performance
  • Molecular adaptation to exercise

According to researcher Martin Gibala…”doing as little as 10 one-minute sprints on a standard stationary bike with about one minute of rest in between, three times a week, works as well in improving muscle as many hours of conventional long-term biking less strenuously.”

We have known for years that repeated moderate long-term exercise tunes up fuel and oxygen delivery to muscles and aids the removal of waste products. Exercise also improves the way muscles use the oxygen to burn the fuel in mitochondria, the microscopic power station of cells.

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Running or cycling for hours a week widens the network of vessels supplying muscle cells and also boosts the numbers of mitochondria in them so that a person can carry out activities of daily living more effectively and without strain, and crucially with less risk of a heart attack, stroke or diabetes.

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But the traditional approach to exercise is time consuming. Martin Gibala and his team have shown that the same results can be obtained in far less time with brief spurts of higher-intensity exercise.

Take that Mr. Lance Armstrong clone.

But wait, it get’s better.

One of the main complaints about High Intensity Interval Training is that it’s…well, too intense.

Sure, it gives you a great workout, but it will probably give you a heart attack.

Not according to Dr. Gibala.

The main purpose of his study was to prove the performance, metabolic and molecular advantages of a more practical model of low-volume HIIT.

The new study used a standard stationary bicycle and a workload which was still above most people’s comfort zone (about 95% of maximal heart rate) but only about half of what can be achieved when people sprint at an all-out pace.

  • Seven men performed 6 HIIT training sessions over 2 weeks.
  • Each session consisted of 8-12 x 60 s intervals (at ≈100% of peak power) separated by 75 s of rest.
  • That’s a total of between 17 and 26 minutes per workout or 2 ½ hours over 2 weeks

So, how does this workout compare to traditional cardio?

According to the doc, to achieve the same performance, metabolic and molecular benefits with traditional endurance (cardio) training, you’d need to complete over 10 hours of continuous moderate bicycling exercise over a two-week period.

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Hmmmmm…let’s recap.

HIIT

  • 2 ½ hours per week

Cardio

  • 10 hours per week

And I won’t even mention the fact that HIIT workouts make you look like this:

fit man woman posterize

while cardio workouts make you look like this…

skinny man woman runner cardio

your choice.

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High Intensity meets High Tech

It’s no secret – I love High Intensity Interval Training.

  • I love that it’s great for melting body-fat
  • I love that it’s great for improving aerobic fitness
  • I love that it’s great for improving anaerobic fitness
  • And I love the fact that I get all of these benefits without having to spend hours on a treadmill like some kind of human/gerbil hybrid.

do-your-tabatas

BUT, one thing I don’t like about HIIT/Tabata Training is that intensity is highly subjective.

When I tell a client that I want 100% on a set of interval sprints, how can I know that they are giving 100% effort.

How do we measure intensity?

Well, up until now, here’s what I have been doing (I will use HIIT bike sprints as an example)

  • After an adequate warm-up, I set the exercise bike at the appropriate level of resistance.
  • Then we start banging out 10 second sprints going as fast as possible
  • I help things along by “encouraging” my client to go faster.
  • I also ask the client to track the number of revolution one leg makes during the 10 second sprint.
  • For example, a new client recently tested out at 25, 27, 28, 28, 29, 27 and 24 revolutions per leg per 10 seconds. (bike resistance set at level 7 of 10)
  • This means that their maximum speed at resistance level 7 was 29 revs per leg per 10 sec.
  • This is also the number we now use to judge performance.

If they pedal slower than 29 rev @ level 7, then they are either fatiguing, not working hard enough or just having a bad day.

It’s not very high tech, but it has worked pretty well…up until now.

Now, I want to get my hands on some of this technology.

These new pieces of technology (Pulse Oximeters, portable ECGs and Activity Monitors) are being used right now by elite level athletes and in research settings to determine how to make exercise more efficient.

And when you consider that every IPhone and Google Android phone comes equipped with a built-in accelerometer, a proximity sensor and is bluetooth ready, it is highly likely that in the very near future, you are going to be able to ramp up the efficiency of your workouts by at least 25%.

And where did I get that 25%, you might ask?

And the answer is…from this study.

Without going into all of the highly technical details, researchers used some of the technology mentioned above to collect performance data while putting their test subjects through a modified Tabata workout.

data setThen they took that data, combined it with the data collected via a medical survey questionnaire and plugged it into a data mining decision tree.

I told you it was technical.

The upshot is that after all of this data was crunched, the researchers were able to design optimized interval training programs personalized for each and every test subject.

And, as a result of those optimized programs, the test subjects were able to improve their performance by 29.54%

What do you think of that!!!

29.54%

I can’t wait to get my hands on some of this technology.

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Reference

Researchers Find the Answer to Senior Citizen Heart Health

healthy-heart

Researchers have discovered a cutting edge technique to help senior citizens improve the elasticity of their arteries – thereby reducing their risk of heart disease and stroke.

Led by Dr. Kenneth Madden, the researchers were able to reduce arterial stiffness by 15 to 20% in only 3 months time.

But wait, it gets better.

Unlike most cardiovascular treatments, the cost of this new cure-all is…….nothing, zero, nada, rien…it’s free.

It’s free because the treatment is:

Exercise

Wow!!!

Exercise instead of drugs…who would have thought of that???

The Study

Dr. Madden divided his test subjects into two groups.

  1. The first group performed one hour of vigorous physical activity for one hour, three times a week for three months.
  2. The second group continued to live a sedentary lifestyle.

Subjects were classified as sedentary at the beginning of the study but gradually increased their fitness levels until they were working at 70 per cent of their maximum heart rate, using treadmills and cycling machines. They were supervised by a certified exercise trainer.

.

And after three months, the exercise group was healthier, while the sedentary group wasn’t.

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So, as a public service to all of my 65+ readers (and those readers with friends & family who are 65+), I will be posting “no equipment necessary” workouts geared toward trainees who are boomer age and older.

Enjoy

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BTW, this post is for my Dad…who should be outside right now getting some exercise

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Your Omega 3 Prescription

By this point, you should already know that you need more Omega 3 fatty acids into your diet.

The question is: how much?

  • A teaspoon of fish oils?
  • A tablespoon?
  • 3 pills?
  • or a great big slab of smoked salmon?

Well, according to this study, researchers believe that “a 200 mg dose of DHA per day is enough to affect biochemical markers that reliably predict cardiovascular problems, such as those related to aging, atherosclerosis, and diabetes”.

This study is the first to identify how much DHA is necessary to promote optimal heart health.

The Study

To determine the optimal dose of DHA, the researchers examined the effects of increasing doses of DHA on 12 healthy male volunteers between ages of 53 and 65. These men consumed doses of DHA at 200, 400, 800, and 1600 mg per day for two weeks for each dose amount, with DHA being the only omega-3 fatty acid in their diet. (No EPA)

Blood and urine samples were collected before and after each dose and at eight weeks after DHA supplementation stopped. The researchers then examined these samples for biochemical markers indicating the effects of each dose on the volunteers.

They found that supplementation with only 200 mg/d DHA for 2 wk induced an antioxidant effect.

They concluded that “low consumption of DHA could be an effective and nonpharmacological way to protect healthy men from platelet-related cardiovascular events”.

Conclusion

If this study is correct, you need only 200 mg of DHA per day to reap the cardiovascular benefits of the Omega 3 fatty acid DHA.

And how do you get 200 mg of DHA?

The “I don’t have time to workout” Workout

No more excuses….You do have time to exercise…

  • If you only have 5 minutes to spare, do 1 of these workouts.
  • 10 minutes = 2 workouts
  • 15 minutes = 3 workouts….

…You don’t even have to go to the gym.

The Rules

  • Each workout lasts 5 minutes (the set/rep combinations are suggestions based upon my experience with clients)
  • If you get to 5 minutes before you get to the end of the workout…STOP. 5 minutes max means 5 minutes max.
  • Each workout involves 2 or 3 different exercises
  • Perform 1 set of exercise A, then move on to exercise B
  • No rest between sets – the workouts are designed to be performed with no rest
  • If your form gets sloppy…slow down. Catch your breath. Good form is more important that getting one extra rep. Injuries suck.

5 Minute Workout # 1

1.   Air Squats – bodyweight only – 5 sets of 30 reps

2.   Hindu Pushups – 5 sets of 15 reps

Try and complete all 10 sets in 5 minutes

5 Minute Workout #2

1.   Dragon Flag 5 sets of 5-10 reps or 5 minutes (whichever comes first)


2.   Shuffle or Scissor Lunges – 5 sets of 40-60 reps (20-30 per leg) or 5 minutes (whichever comes first)

Try and complete all 10 sets in 5 minutes

5 Minute Workout #3

1.   Spiderman Lunge 5 sets of 12 reps (6 reps per side) or 5 minutes (whichever comes first)

2.  Hip Thrust/Bridge – 5 sets of 40-60 reps (20-30 per leg) or 5 minutes (whichever comes first)

Try and complete all 10 sets in 5 minutes

5 Minute Workout #4

1.   Kettlebell Swing  5 sets of 10 reps (5 reps per arm) or 5 minutes (whichever comes first)

2.  1 Arm Dumbbell Press – 5 sets of 10 reps (5 reps per side) or 5 minutes (whichever comes first)

3. Siff Lunge – 5 sets of 10 reps (5 reps per side) or 5 minutes (whichever comes first)

Try and complete all 15 sets in 5 minutes

5 Minute Workout #5…my personal favorite

1.   Jumping Bulgarian Squat 5 sets of 20 reps (10 reps per leg) or 5 minutes (whichever comes first)

2.  Band Woodchops – 5 sets of 20 reps (10 reps per side) or 5 minutes (whichever comes first)


3. 1 Leg Stiff Leg Deadlift – 5 sets of 10 reps (5 reps per side) or 5 minutes (whichever comes first)

Try and complete all 15 sets in 5 minutes

Bonus Workout…if you have a partner

5 minutes of this…

BTW, Marv is another personal trainer from Toronto

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13 Training Mistakes You Need to Avoid

Fitness training isn’t rocket science.

  • Good training & nutrition decisions produce good results.
  • Poor training & nutrition decisions produce poor results.

So, how come when I go to the gym this afternoon, I can pretty much guarantee that I am going to see a lot of intelligent, well-educated, gainfully employed people making some pretty stupid training decisions?

  • Maybe fitness training is rocket science?
  • Maybe I am some sort of fitness training genius.

albert-einstein

So, as a public service to all of the non-fitness-training genii out there, here is a list of some of the training mistakes I will probably see at the gym today.

Try and avoid them.

  1. Doing Cardio Training before Resistance Training
  2. Doing Static Stretching before Resistance Training
  3. adductor inner thighTraining Core before Legs
  4. Chugging a Gatorade while reading a book on the Exercise Bike
  5. Thinking that the Inner Thigh (Adductor) Machine is going to work some sort of magic.
  6. Ignoring your Weaknesses and over-training your Strengths
  7. Believing that Core Training is all about Crunches & Planks
  8. Training Body Parts instead of Body Movements
  9. Believing that you can Out-Train a Bad Diet
  10. Making chronic neck & shoulder pain worse by ignoring your postural muscles
  11. Thinking that Resistance Training will make you too big
  12. Thinking that Cardio training will make you too small
  13. Performing a one size fits all type of fitness program

And if you see yourself on the list and want to change your evil ways, feel free to comment.

I or one of your fellow readers would be glad to lend a hand.

Addendum

I just received an email from a quasi-famous strength coach/trainer to the stars telling me that I was an idiot for believing that cardio prior to resistance training is a bad idea.

Personally, I can’t believe that he took the time out of his day to tell me off via email (wouldn’t a comment have been quicker?) but I would like to thank him because it helped me come up with another fitness training mistake:

Dogma

Believing that one way of training is the 100% right and that all other methods are 100% wrong.

Whether it’s hardcore cardio junkies or Crosfitters or bodybuilders of Yoginis, being close minded to different training methods seems prety stupid to me.

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HIIT is your best choice for burning off Belly Fat

fat-belly
Not a pretty picture is it?

BAD NEWS

Abdominal Visceral Fat (aka Belly Fat) has been strongly linked to:

  • Depression
  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer
  • Systemic Inflammation
  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Death

In a nutshell, a big gut is not a good thing.

GOOD NEWS

High Intensity (HIIT and/or HIRT) Training burns off belly fat faster than any other form of exercise.

The Magic of HIIT
The Magic of HIIT

The Science

Study # 1

In 2008, researchers took 27 middle-aged obese women with metabolic syndrome and subjected them to one of three exercise programs.

  • Group 1 was the no-exercise control group
  • Group 2 was the low intensity (aerobic) exercise group –
  • Group 3 was the high intensity (HIIT) exercise group

Groups 2 & 3 performed 5 workouts per week @ 400 calories per workout.

After 16 weeks, the HIIT group had significantly reduced total abdominal fat, abdominal subcutaneous fat and most importantly abdominal visceral fat.

Sadly, Groups 1 & 2 saw no significant changes in fat loss.

Study # 2

In study #2, researchers took 45 normal women (mean BMI 23.2plusminus2.0 kg m-2 and age of 20.2plusminus2.0 years) and subjected them to a 15 week HIIT exercise program.

As in the first study, the women were divided into 3 groups.

  • Group 1 was the no-exercise control group
  • Group 2 was the low intensity (aerobic) exercise group –
  • Group 3 was the high intensity (HIIT) exercise group

After 15 weeks, both exercise groups demonstrated a significant improvement in cardiovascular fitness.

However, only the HIIT group had a significant reduction in:

  • total body mass (TBM),
  • fat mass (FM),
  • trunk fat
  • and fasting plasma insulin levels.

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Conclusion

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High Intensity training (HIIT or HIRT) is more effective than cardio training for burning off belly fat.

 

Reference

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Today’s Workouts – June 16, 2009

recumbant bike
Alan Ariail racing his NoCom - Photo: Dan Glatch

Tuesday’s Workouts

Workout # 1

  • 20 min of HIIT sprints on the bike – 100% intensity (10:50 / 15:45 / 20:40) w 5 min warm-up & cool-down

Workout # 2

  • 60 min of steady state cardio at intensity 6/10
  • 10 min of stretching
  • 20 min of meditation (approx time as time ceases to be linear in the meditative state…..ohmmmm
health fitness exercise healthhabits workout

Here's why you NEED aerobic exercise

Let’s face it. Cardio is boring. Running laps around a track or pedaling away like some spandex wearing gerbil…..Boring.

But,according to the authors of this new study, “your personal aerobic fitness is not something you will see in the mirror but it is an important predictor of your long-term health,”

“The most important part of physical activity is protecting yourself from diseases that can be fatal or play a significant role in increasing the risk factors for other metabolic diseases.”

The Study

fattyliver
Fatty Liver

For years, we have known that poor aerobic fitness is associated with obesity, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. This new study adds another serious condition to the list – non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

The study also suggests that the resulting liver problems play a crucial step developing obesity-related illnesses. In fact, the study authors think that “Fatty liver disease will be the next big metabolic disorder associated with obesity and inactivity.”

So, to test the link between aerobic fitness and fatty liver disease, the researcher bred a strain of genetically unfit rats. These couch-potato rats could only run an average of 200m compared to over 1500m for the average fit rat.

Leaving both strains of rats to their own devices, the researchers noticed that at 25 weeks, the unfit rats showed clear signs of fatty liver. “By the end of their natural lives, the rats’ livers had sustained damage including fibrosis (the precursor to cirrhosis) and unexpected cell death”.

In contrast, the ‘fit’ group enjoyed heathy livers throughout their lifespans – despite the fact that neither group was getting any real exercise.

The team’s findings provide the first biochemical links between low aerobic fitness and fatty liver disease, and have lead the authors to suggest that NAFLD could potentially be treated or prevented by a suitable exercise program.

Conclusion

  • Aerobic exercise is boring
  • Aerobic exercise prevents fatty liver disease
  • You don’t want fatty liver disease, so
  • Get movin’

How to Carbo-Load without Eating any Carbs

spaghetti-head

According to a study published in the Journal of Physiology, it is possible to reap some of the athletic performance rewards of a carbo-load without actually eating any carbs.

The Science

Previous studies have shown that the presence of carbs in your mouth activates regions of the brain that can improve athletic performance.

The primary aim of this study was to see how “rinsing the mouth with solutions containing glucose and maltodextrin, disguised with artificial sweetener, would affect exercise performance”.

The secondary aim was to identify those regions of the brain activated by the sugars and artificial sweetener. A functional MRI (fMRI) machine was used to map the brain.

The Test

Prior to completing a cycling time trial, the eight volunteers rinsed their mouth out with a solution of glucose or maltodextrin or a placebo solution containing the artificial sweetener saccharin.

After the rinse, they hopped on their bikes and pedaled as hard and as fast as their legs could go.

Results

  • In study 1A, test subjects “completed a cycle time trial significantly faster when rinsing their mouths with a 6.4% glucose solution compared with a placebo containing saccharin.”
  • The corresponding fMRI study (1B) revealed that oral exposure to glucose activated reward-related brain regions, including the anterior cingulate cortex and striatum, which were unresponsive to saccharin.
  • In study 2A, cyclists who rinsed with the maltodextrin solution once again outperformed their saccharin-swilling brethren.
  • The second neuroimaging study (2B) “compared the cortical response to oral maltodextrin and glucose, revealing a similar pattern of brain activation in response to the two carbohydrate solutions, including areas of the insula/frontal operculum, orbitofrontal cortex and striatum”.

Conclusions

The results suggest that the improvement in exercise performance caused by the carbo-rinse may be due to the activation of brain regions believed to be involved in reward and motor control.

The findings also suggest that there may be a class of so far unidentified oral receptors that respond to carbohydrate independently of those for sweetness.

What does this mean to you?

  • One of the primary benefits of cardio-vascular training is that fat is the primary choice of fuel.
  • This is why cardio training is one of the most popular weight loss tools.
  • However, a lot of trainees hurt their own cause by carbing up prior to a cardio session.
  • Carbo-loading before a cardio session impairs the use of body-fat as fuel.
  • It shifts you from being a fat-burner to a carb-burner
  • However, because of this study, you can have the best of both worlds. The performance boosting effect of carbs combined with optimum fat burning.

Yay!

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Reference

Journal of Physiology

Exercise Better with Coffee

For decades, endurance athletes have relied on caffeine as a performance aid. They claimed that a pre-workout cup of coffee helped them to push themselves harder and for longer periods of time.

And along the way, science has backed up that belief:

  • In 1979, scientists found that caffeine helped cyclists improve their performance by 7% during a 2 hour workout.
  • In 1991, cyclists dosed with 9mg of caffeine per kg of bodyweight were able to increase their endurance by 51%
  • In 1995, cyclists performing high intensity circuits were able to improve their endurance by 29% with a dose of 5.5mg of caffeine per kg of body mass.

Pretty good, right? The only problem is that no one really knew why caffeine improved athletic performance…until now.

Researcher (and cycling geek) Dr. Robert Motl has spent the last 7 years considering the relationship between physical activity and caffeine. Today, he has a much better understanding of why that cuppa Joe he used to consume before distance training and competing enhanced his cycling ability.

  • Early in his research, he became aware that “caffeine works on the adenosine neuromodulatory system in the brain and spinal cord, and this system is heavily involved in nociception and pain processing.”
  • Since Motl knew caffeine blocks adenosine from working, he speculated that it could reduce pain.
  • A number of studies by Dr. Motl support that conclusion, including investigations considering such variables as exercise intensity, dose of caffeine, anxiety sensitivity and gender.

The good doctors latest study “looks at the effects of caffeine on muscle pain during high-intensity exercise as a function of habitual caffeine use,” he said. “No one has examined that before”.

And what did they find?

  • Caffeine reduces pain during exercise.
  • Less pain means you can work harder.
  • Less pain means you can work longer.

The Science

The study’s 25 participants were fit, college-aged males divided into two distinct groups:

  1. Subjects whose everyday caffeine consumption was extremely low to non-existent,
  2. And those with an average caffeine intake of about 400 milligrams a day, the equivalent of three to four cups of coffee.

After testing their baseline aerobic fitness, Dr. Motl tortured his subjects with two monitored high-intensity, 30-minute exercise sessions.

  • An hour prior to each session, cyclists – who had been instructed not to consume caffeine during the prior 24-hour period – were given a pill.
  • On one occasion, it contained a dose of caffeine measuring 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (equivalent to two to three cups of coffee); the other time, they received a placebo.
  • During both exercise periods, subjects’ perceptions of quadriceps muscle pain was recorded at regular intervals, along with data on oxygen consumption, heart rate and work rate.

The Results

Obviously the most important result was that caffeine reduced the pain of intense physical activity. But Dr. Motl also found that when it came to the reduction of pain, “caffeine tolerance doesn’t matter”. Caffeine-junkies and the herbal tea drinkers received the same pain reducing benefit from their little caffeine pill.

So, what now?

Dr. Motl wants to see what effect caffeine’s pain-reducing abilities has on sport performance.

“We’ve shown that caffeine reduces pain reliably, consistently during cycling, across different intensities, across different people, different characteristics. But does that reduction in pain translate into an improvement in sport performance?”

Interesting question for sure, but I am way to impatient to wait for science to catch up to real life. If you’re like me, check out this list of caffeine based beverages and let’s get physical.

Reference

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1,000,000,001 Different Ways to Squat

This post is for that guy at the gym who avoids squatting because:

  • They hurt his back
  • They hurt his knees
  • They hurt his shoulders, wrists, neck, ego…
  • Squat only focus on his quads
  • He’s trying to focus on his vastus medialis
  • Squats are overrated
  • He’s not a powerlifter
  • He’s not a bodybuilder
  • He’s not a football player or sprinter or skater or…

Well, you get the idea.

Just for that guy, I am going to outline all of the different ways that you or him can squat.

Note: I am pretty sure that I will miss something, so feel free to let me know what I missed and I will add it to the post.

1,000,000,001 Different Ways to Squat

In an attempt to organize this master list of squatting options, I decided to organize all of these different lifts into different categories.

Categories

  1. Unilateral / Bilateral
  2. Stance / Body Orientation
  3. Equipment
  4. Position of Load
  5. Range of Motion
  6. Tempo or Speed
  7. Weight of Load as a % of 1 Rep Max Lift
  8. Lifting Surface
  9. Training Volume
  10. Rest Periods
Crossfit builds fit females
Crossfit builds fit females

Unilateral / Bilateral

  • 1 Leg Squat – free leg held in front of body – knee bent
  • 1 Leg Pistol Squat – free leg held in front of body – leg straight
  • 1 Leg Box Squat – free leg hangs down
  • 1 Leg Squat – free leg placed behind body
  • 1 Leg Bulgarian Squat
  • 2 Leg Squat

Stance / Body Orientation

  • Hips turned out – Toes turned out
  • Hips straight – Toes straight – legs shoulder width apart
  • Hips & toes straight – narrow stance – legs close together
  • Torso held high, chest up, very little forward lean at the hips – bodybuilder style
  • Rear end pushed back, large forward lean at the hips – powerlifter style
  • More knee flexion than hip flexion during lift – Knees move past the toes during lift
  • Equal knee and hip flexion – Knees don’t pass the toes
  • More hip flexion than knee flexion – Knees stay well back of the toes – box squat style

Equipment

  • Barbell
  • Dumbbell(s)
  • Kettlebell(s)
  • Bodyweight only
  • Weighted Vest
  • Band(s)
  • Chains
  • Medicine ball, sandbag, log, tire, rock, person or any other extreme implement
  • Machines – Smith machine, Squat machine, Hack Squat machine, etc….
  • Cable weight machines
  • Benches / Boxes
  • Stability balls

Position of Load

  • Back Squat – load held on shoulders behind the neck
  • Front Squat – load held in front of the neck
  • Overhead Squat
  • DBs, KBs, etc held in hands at waist height
  • Zercher Squats – load held in the “crook” of your elbows at chest/belly height
  • Hack Squat – barbell held behind your legs

Range of Motion

  • Full squat
  • Barely bending your knees Partial Squat
  • Everything in between
  • 1 and 1/2 squats – squat all the way down, come up half way, go back down and then squat all the way up
  • Focusing on a specific range – i.e working only in the bottom 1/4 of the full range focuses the effort strongly on your glutes, while focusing on the top 1/4 focuses mainly on the quads while also making the exercise much, much easier

Tempo or Speed

  • There are a number of different systems for classifying lifting speed. For simplicity sake, I will stick with the basics: fast, moderate, slow & pause
  • Different speeds of motion can be used for the different portions of the lift: descent, bottom, ascent, top
  • You can mix and match the different speeds with the different portions of the lift depending on your training goals
  • The typical squatter descends fast, doesn’t pause at the bottom, ascends back up fast and pauses at the top if he needs to rest – not very scientific
  • However, another lifter may descend slowly, pause at the bottom to eliminate the bounce he might receive from his stretch shortening cycle, ascend as fast as possible and immediately descend into another squat

Weight of Load as a % of 1 Rep Max Lift

  • Your 1 Rep Max Lift is the maximum amount of weight you can successfully lift with good form.
  • If you are lifting for strength, you will likely choose a load that is close to your 1 Rep max. A lower percentage load is used when you are performing high reps for muscular endurance or for low reps and high speed in an attempt to develop muscular speed.

Lifting Surface

  • This category is primarily employed by the Bosu or “functional training” crowd
  • Most lifters stand on a solid floor, but if it floats your boat, feel free to squat while standing on:
  • Balance disks
  • a Bosu
  • a 1/2 foam roller
  • a balance beam
  • on top of someone’s shoulders

muscle-beach-pyramid

Training Volume

  • Depending on your training goals (power, strength, hypertrophy, endurance, speed), you can choose a variety of reps per set, sets per exercise and total sets/reps per workout

Rest Periods

  • This category refers to the length of the rest periods taken between sets.
  • Short rest periods are used as a tool to develop the trainees anaerobic energy system.
  • Long rest periods are used to allow more complete muscular and/or nervous system recovery.
  • And as with tempo and load percentage, there is an almost infinite number of positions in between.

Putting it all together…

To be honest, I have no idea how many different types of squats we could make with all of these options.

1,000,000,001 looked impressive, so I went with it…sue me.

But, I do know that my little list ‘o squats should definitely spark your imagination and help you create a new and better squat workout.

Have fun.

Workout Burnout

groundhog-day

Yesterday was Groundhog Day at my gym.

The same people, with the same bodies, were doing the same workouts that they do each and every day.

  • The skinny-fit people were running hard, uphill, on their treadmills
Brandon Moen: treadmill marathon champ
Brandon Moen: treadmill marathon champ
  • The skinny-fat people were jogging, like good little hamsters on their treadmills or ellipticals, and

skinny-fat

  • The wanna-be skinny-fat people were plodding along in their fat-burning zones.

exercise-reading-book

  • The resident “strong-men” of the gym were trying hard to hide even more muscle under their generous layers of body-fat.
Dave Tate - powerlifting guru - pre-transformation
Dave Tate - powerlifting guru - pre-transformation
  • The “machine-junkies” were getting a very safe & sensible workout

curves

  • The Yoginis were stretching themselves into pretzels
model: Christy Turlington
model: Christy Turlington
  • And the interval training junkies were working out like this:

and this:

And the question I ask is…

Why?

Why do the runners run and the lifters lift?

Why don’t the yoginis ever try to build some strength?

Why do the Crossfit cultists only do Crossfit?

Why don’t the Curves circuit bunnies ever do some sprints on the exercise bikes?

Why?

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So, I ‘m asking you.

Do you have the guts to break out of your routine and try something new?

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HIIT Interval Timers: Review of the Inventico TMR04-B

Bill Hall
artist: Bill Hall

One of my favorite training methods is HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training.

It’s one of the best tools I know for developing power, improving anaerobic endurance and maximizing fat loss.

But, it’s not perfect. One of the potential drawbacks to HIIT workouts is that instead of counting reps, your workout revolves around time.

And that’s fine if you are using a piece of cardio equipment with a built in timer.

However, if you are trying to time a set of HIIT hanging power cleans, you may be in for some trouble.

Unless you have a workout partner with a stopwatch, an expensive personal trainer like yours truly…or a dedicated Interval Workout Timer like the Inventico TMR04-B.

Inventico TMR04-B
Inventico TMR04-B

What is an Interval Timer

Basically, it is a stopwatch dedicated to counting down and alerting you to start and stop your HIIT work sets and rest periods.

The TMR04-B is not the only interval timer on the market. But, it is the only one that I have used.

Disclosure – Inventico contacted me in January and asked if I would be interested in trying out their product. At that time, offers of this kind were fairly new to me. I agreed to try out the unit because:

  1. I was sick of using a stopwatch to time my personal HIIT workouts
  2. The Inventico rep was very confident in the product and was willing to risk a bad review
  3. I am a geek for fitness equipment. You wouldn’t believe the amount of workout and rehab tools that litter my apartment

So, here’s the review:

How Does It Work?

  • The unit is about the size of a travel alarm clock – 3 1/2″ (8.3cm) wide & tall by 1 1/4″ (3.5cm) thick
  • You enter the number of interval sets and the length of the work sets and rest periods via the buttons at the top of the face plate.
  • The relatively large LCD display (height of numerals – 3/4″ or 2cm) counts down the work/rest periods
  • The unit beeps three times at the end of every work set and beeps 1 time at the end of your rest periods
  • At the end of your final work set, the unit produces 3 sets of 3 beeps
  • There is also a red LED light at the top of the unit that flashes in unison with the beeping.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • It made solo HIIT workouts a LOT simpler. For example, in the past when I wanted to do a HIIT workout using front squats, I had to pause between reps to turn and look at the wall clock in my gym. With the timer, I used the LED light as a visual cue to start and stop my sets. Outdoors, the auditory cue (beeping) was loud enough that I didn’t need to carry the timer during sprints.
  • The LCD screen is large enough to see from a few feet
  • Inventico designed the unit to be mounted onto fitness equipment. The unit has two holes in the casing that allow a piece of cable to be threaded through and attached to the frame of a piece of fitness equipment. Obviously, this was designed to help out a health club manager. For my use, I bought a piece of stick-on magnet and stuck it to the back plate of the timer. This allowed me to attach the timer to any piece of metallic equipment at whatever height was appropriate for that exercise.
  • The unit is durable – It was dropped more than once and it kept on tickin’

Cons

  • The beeping noise is way too loud for a health club. And it isn’t adjustable. But, it can be eliminated by removing a small chip from the circuit board inside. Note –  Inventico has plans to offer an adjustable volume control with it’s next edition of the timer
  • The LCD screen is hard to read in certain lighting conditions. However, I seldom used the screen anyway, preferring the LED indoors and the beeping outdoors.
  • The instructions were a little confusing. I gave the unit (with instructions) to a bunch of people and no one found it easy to adjust…at first. After a few tries, it becomes easier.

Overall

The unit isn’t perfect, but if you are a HIIT junkie, it’s worth the $26.

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Note about Health Habits and Product Reviews

In the past few months I have started to receive offers to try out different products & services. At first, I turned down all of these offers because I can’t stand when other bloggers write kiss-ass reviews for products simply because they got the product for free and felt that they owed it to the company.

I decided to take Inventico up on their offer because I was genuinely curious about the product. And I was 100% honest in my review.

In the future, if I write a review about a product that I received at no cost, I will:

  • Let you guys know that I received the product free from the manufacturer,
  • Review it honestly, and
  • Request from the manufacturer that they send a second item to one of my readers for their review. That way, we will get two different points of view on the same product/service.

Reference

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WARNING: Tabata Workouts WILL Cause Fat Loss

tabata

I have a love/hate relationships with Tabata training…..I love what it does for me, but I hate how I feel around minute #3.

Seriously…Tabata training is one of the best ways to quickly improve fitness & melt body-fat. If that piques your interest, read on….

Pre-Workout Checklist

  1. Pick an exercise that uses a lot of muscle – squats, power cleans, pull-ups, etc… To make that selection, you can choose from the list of exercises that I have provided or pick your own if you think my choices stink.
  2. Pick a weight that you can handle for at least 7 reps.

Execution

  1. Perform as many reps as possible within 20 seconds – maintain good form
  2. Rest for 10 seconds
  3. Perform 7 more sets
  4. Move on to the next exercise

Note:  Use a clock, stopwatch, workout buddy or a dedicated HIIT timer to keep track of your work sets and rest periods. I know of two HIIT timers on the market.

The Workouts

Instead of giving you a static workout with pre-selected exercises, I have decided to organize the workout by movement patterns (e.g. Vertical Push) or dominant muscle groups (Quadriceps).

Within those groups, I have given you a list of related exercises.

For example, within the Vertical Push Movement Group, you can choose from 1 Arm Overhead PressPush Presses, 1 Arm Grappler Presses, Side Presses, etc…

Remember, the goal is to go as hard as you can for 8 sets of 20 seconds.

  • Don’t use this workout to try out new exercises – You won’t be able to develop maximum intensity if you need to concentrate on technique. Choose exercises that you know you can perform effectively and safely.
  • If you can’t make it through all 8 sets because of the lactic burn to a muscle, eliminate that exercise and replace it with one that uses more muscles. e.g. a push press uses more muscles than an overhead barbell press.
  • Single limb exercises allow you overcome this problem as well – e.g. 1 Arm Overhead Press v.s. Barbell Overhead Press

Workout # 1

  1. Vertical Push Movement
  2. Horizontal Pull Movement
  3. Quadriceps Dominant Movement
  4. Core Stabilization – focus on Spinal Flexion & Extension
  5. Vertical Push Movement – optional
  6. Horizontal Pull Movement – optional
  7. Quadriceps Dominant Movement – optional
  • Feel free to re-arrange the order of Exercises 1, 2 and 3. It doesn’t really make a difference.
  • Sets 5 to 7 are for advanced athletes only. Remember, intensity is the key to Tabata success. Don’t try and pace yourself in order to add another set. Go full out on each set. Believe me, 4 sets of full intensity Tabatas should be enough to have you soaking wet with sweat and bordering on nausea.

Workout # 2

  1. Vertical Pull Movement
  2. Horizontal Push Movement
  3. Hamstrings/Glute Dominant Movement
  4. Core Stabilization – focus on Rotation and Lateral Flexion
  5. Vertical Pull Movement – optional
  6. Horizontal Push Movement – optional
  7. Hamstring/Glute Dominant Movement – optional
  • Feel free to re-arrange the order of Exercises 1, 2 and 3. It doesn’t really make a difference.
  • Sets 5 to 7 are for advanced athletes only. Remember, intensity is the key to Tabata success. Don’t try and pace yourself in order to add another set. Go full out on each set. Believe me, 4 sets of full intensity Tabatas should be enough to have you soaking wet with sweat and bordering on nausea.

Vertical Push Movement

Horizontal Pull Movement

  • 1 Arm Standing Cable Row or Band Row
  • Body-weight Rowuse an adjustable power rack or Smith machine. This allows you to modify the angle of pull and the percentage of body-weight. Also, change your grips from set to set – width, underhand, overhand
  • 1 Arm or 2 Arm Seated Rows – I prefer the standing rows because of their high demand for stabilization, but the seated version is pretty good as well
  • Avoid any bent-over movements – Your lower back will fail long before the rest of you

Quadriceps Dominant Movement

  • Front Squats – Dumbbells or Barbell
  • Body-weight or Weighted Vest Squats – 1 Leg or 2
  • Overhead Squats1 Arm or 2, 1 Leg or 2
  • Quad Dominant Lunges – Lunge forward onto the ball of your foot AND keep your step short and allow the knee to travel past your toes…I know, I know, everyone says not to lunge this way, but it really hits the quads. BTW, take a look at how far your knee travels past your toes as you climb a flight of stairs…ooooh scary stuff.
  • Bench Step-Ups
  • Bulgarian Lunge/Squat

Core Stabilization – focus on Spinal Flexion & Extension

  • Standing Cable or Band Crunch
  • The Ab Wheel
  • Leg raises/Knee-Ups / Crunches (various) – I would skip these exercises – you will fatigue quickly and you will probably have to cheat to complete all 8 sets

Vertical Pull Movement

Horizontal Push Movement

  • Push-Ups – like the Body-weight Row, use a Smith machine to adjust angles and body-weight resistance. Also, adjust hand placement (width, overhand, underhand) from set to set. Trust me, switching grips will increase the number of reps you will be able to perform
  • 1 Arm Standing Cable Press or Band Presses
  • Stay away from any standard bench press type exercise. The lactic acid will hit way too soon. You will never get a good Tabata workout…trust me. The cable/band exercise is the best choice. Even the push-ups allow you to use your legs and core to help perform the lift. You need these extra muscles to take some of the load

Hamstring/Glute Dominant Movement

Core Stabilization – focus on Rotation and Lateral Flexion

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Health and Fitness in a Bottle: Big Pharma Discovers their Holy Grail

I'm strong to the finish, cuz I eats me spinach....
I'm strong to the finish, cuz I eats me spinach....

Scientists from the Salk Institute’s Gene Expression Laboratory may have discovered Big Pharma‘s Holy Grail of Pharmaceuticals.

A pill that would allow you to reap all of the benefits of vigorous exercise while sitting on the couch watching re-runs of Seinfeld.

How about that!

Scientists from the Salk Institute’s Gene Expression Laboratory have reported (in the July 31 advance edition of the journal Cell) that they have discovered two drugs (GW1516 and AICAR) that were able to transform regular ole’ lab mice into freaky running machines.

AICAR increased the mice’s endurance on a treadmill by 44 percent after just four weeks of treatment.

GW1516 produced a 77%  increase in endurance, but sadly, had to be combined with exercise to have any effect.

The Study

Lead researcher, Ronald M. Evans, Ph.D, had previously discovered that by permanently activating a genetic switch known as PPAR delta, he could turn lab mice into miniature Olympic marathon champs.

In addition to their improvements in aerobic endurance, these super mice didn’t gain weight while being fed a diet high in pizza and beer. In addition to their ripped physiques, they experienced improved insulin sensitivity and lowered levels of blood sugar.

This led Dr. Evans to hypothesize whether a drug specific for PPAR delta would have the same beneficial effects.

So, they doped the mice with GW1516.
After four weeks, the researchers were in for a bit of a disappointment.
I've got the Eye of the Tiger...
I've got the Eye of the Tiger...

The mice were leaner, had an improved fatty acid profile, improved insulin sensitivity and lowered levels of blood sugar, but there was no effect on their exercise performance.

So, like a personal trainer, they upped the mice’s cardio and had them run up to 50 minutes on a treadmill.

And after a few more weeks, the GW1516 mice were lapping the non-doped mice.

In fact, the GW1516 mice improved their exercise endurance 77% higher than the control mice. They also saw a 38% increase in slow twitch muscle fibers.

But wait, the researchers weren’t finished yet. GW1516 looks pretty great, but they were looking for a drug that would provide the benefits of exercise without actually having to do the exercise.

Enter AICAR.

The researchers fed untrained mice AICAR, (a synthetic AMP analog that directly activates AMPK).

After four weeks, the AICAR mice were pushed onto the treadmill and boy did they perform. On average, they ran 44% longer than the control mice. According to the researchers, “That’s as much improvement as we get with regular exercise.”

So there we go, exercise in a pill.

So, How Does it Work?

Well, according to Dr. Evans,  “GW1516 activates the PPAR-delta protein, but the mice must also exercise to show increased endurance. It seems that PPAR-delta switches on one set of genes, and exercise another, and both are needed for endurance”.

AICAR however, “activates the PPAR-delta protein and mimics the effects of exercise, thus switching on both sets of genes needed for the endurance signal”. It “signals the cell that it has burned off energy and needs to generate more. It is pretty much pharmacological exercise”.

Conclusion

Theirs: “This is not just a free lunch,” Dr. Evans said. “It’s pushing your genome toward a more enhanced genetic tone that impacts metabolism and muscle function. So instead of inheriting a great set-point you are using a drug to move your own genetics to a more activated metabolic state.”

“The drugs’ effect on muscle opens a window to a world of medical problems,” he said. “This paper will alert the medical community that muscle can be a therapeutic target.”

Mine: I wonder if we are not straying a leeetle bit too far down the Eugenics path with this research.

Forgetting the potential moral argument of switching our genes on and off, my concern is purely medical. While it will take years and years of animal and human testing before a commercially viable GW1516 or AICAR is available on the market, I still think that I would prefer to improve my body the old fashioned way.

Thanks to EurekAlert! for the original source material.

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Aerobic Exercise Suppresses Appetite

Aerobic Exercise Suppresses Appetite

Dr. A. Veronica Araya, has found that aerobic exercise suppresses appetite by increasing the level of BDNF (a brain derived neurotrophic factor related to obesity and metabolism) in the bloodstream.

The results of the study indicates that an increase in BDNF results in an unconscious reduction in appetite.

Suppresses Appetite

The Study

  • In the study, 15 participants were asked to maintain their current diet while participating in a three month program of aerobic exercise.
  • At the end of the study, the two legged guinea pigs reported a reduction in perceived appetite as well as the actual amount of calories ingested.
  • This led to an overall reduction in BMI, waist circumference and blood pressure.
  • Most importantly, the participants with the highest concentration of BDNF showed the sharpest reduction in calories and the greatest loss of body-fat.

What does this mean in the real world?

I don’t know…yet.

At the present time, I see at least two problems with this study.

  1. The small sample size – 15 overweight test subjects does not excite Big Pharma. However, based on the results alone, these researchers should have little trouble finding more investors for a new, larger study.
  2. The researchers did not test appetite suppression directly. In this study, the participants were unaware that one of the objectives was to evaluate changes in appetite and caloric intake. Once again, Big Pharma would not be impressed.

Conclusion

Suppresses Appetite This was a small study. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. So was Isaac Newton’s epiphany about gravity.

  • Small studies often lead to big studies which often lead to medical breakthroughs.

Current research into obesity is progressing at a ridiculous pace. Just think about it; the company that can patent an effective weight loss drug with no scary side effects will make an obscene amount of money. BDNF may not be the answer, but the fact that this study has shown it to be a marker of appetite suppression is a good thing.

In the future, a blood test for BDNF sensitivity may be able to tell your doctor whether or not aerobic exercise will help you lose weight.

Who knows, maybe some smartypants will come up with a synthetic form of BDNF and we can all get the appetite squashing benefits of a good cardio workout while sitting on the couch.

Reference

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4 Steps to a Great HIIT Workout

In a couple of recent posts, (here and here) I discussed the science behind High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT Training. In those posts, I discussed why HIIT is an essential tool in developing complete physical fitness as well as being a VERY effective fat burning tool.

I have also designed a custom HIIT workout geared to improve your vertical jump, click here.

Today’s post will give you the tools to develop your own HIIT or Sprint Training program.

The 4 Steps to a Great HIITWorkout

1. Exercise Selection

Most of the research studies into HIIT have relied on stationary bicycles or ergo-meters to test the effectiveness of this training protocol. Mainly this is due to the need for these studies to control all of the variables in a closed laboratory setting. Kinesiology lab = Stationary bike.

You, however, are not limited to an exercise bike, treadmill or ergo-meter (stationary rowing machine). HIIT or Sprint Training requires an all-out effort followed by an ‘active’ rest period. As long as you choose exercises that are fully challenging your body for the entire sprint portion, you are limited only by your imagination.

My two caveats are that

  1. You should choose big compound exercises that use as many muscles as possible.
  2. You should choose exercises that involve continuous movement. There should be little to no resting during the exercise – i.e. no bench press, power cleans where you drop the bar to the floor.

Here are some suggestions:

Cardio machines

  • Bike
  • Treadmill – be careful transitioning from sprint to recovery – some treadmills are more suited to this type of exercise than others – Back in the day, I used to keep the treadmill at a fast clip and increase the incline for my sprint and then (as quickly as I could hit the ‘decline elevation’ key, bring the treadmill level for the active rest portion.
  • Elliptical – Same warning as the treadmill
  • Ergo-meter / Stationary Flywheel Rowing Machine
  • Versaclimber, VersaPulley

Body Wight Exercises

  • Sprinting – track, indoor, outdoor, cross-country, etc.
  • Hill Sprints
  • Sand dune sprints
  • Swimming
  • Road cycling – My be difficult to coordinate HIIT if you have to deal with traffic
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Burpees
  • Think gym class calisthenics or take a look at some of the crossfit videos on you tube.

External Resistance Exercises

This is where you are really limited only by your imagination and your common sense. Remember, you should be going full out. Moves that are too complex won’t work when you hit that great big wall of pain.

2. Volume

Simply put, as you increase the volume of your HIIT work, your anaerobic endurance improves and the amount of caloric burn increases.

I have included a linear Volume Progression chart for you to follow. Beginners should start with 1 x 20 minute workout per week. Trainees with a good aerobic / anaerobic base can start with 2 x 20 minute workouts per week.

Don’t underestimate HIIT. It’s not like aerobic or standard resistance training. There is a strong neuro-muscular component to this training. You will over train if you are not careful.

Work to increase your volume to the maximum recommended 3 x 30 minute workouts per week before increasing the intensity or eternal load.

3. Intensity

I am defining intensity in reference to the ratio of sprint time to active rest time. In the McMaster University study, the participants struggled with a 1:9 – Sprint:Active Rest Ratio.

My Intensity Progression Chart takes you from a 1:9 ratio all the way to a 1:3 ratio.

In each Sprint:Recovery Ratio Category, I have provided guidelines based on 4 different sprint durations. Feel free to jump back and forth between sprint durations in between workouts. A 10 second sprint is not necessarily any harder than a 30 second sprint. Depending upon your individual fitness, you may find the 30 second sprint harder than the 10 second, while your training partner may be the complete opposite.

My advice; do whichever length is the hardest for you.

Beginners will start out with the 1:9 Ratio and progress through to the 1:3 Ratio.

The range of Sprints per Workout is to accommodate your improvements in HIIT Volume Progression. In the 1:3 Ratio workout, 30 second sprints performed for 20 minutes will result in a total of 10 sprints. As you progress to a 30 minute workout, you will be doing 15 sprints.

4. External Load

The final step to a great HIIT workout is external load.

Increase the resistance on your cardio machine. Increase the weight of the dumbbell. Or use one of my favorite tools, the X Vest. A less expensive brand of weighted vest is available here.

This is the final step on your path to a great HIIT / Sprint Training Workout.

To Review

  • Choose your HIIT exercise carefully. Big muscle groups, constant motion, not too complex to perform when you are tired, availability in the gym and hopefully something you enjoy performing.
  • Increase your HIIT Volume
  • Increase your HIIT Intensity
  • Increase your external load

With just these 4 steps, you have an endless number of HIIT workout options.

For a custom HIIT geared to improve your vertical jump, click here.

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Energy System Training Makes Your Heart Healthier and Stronger

Improve your Heart with Short Workouts

A recent study has concluded that short bouts of high intensity exercise is as effective at improving the structure and function of your heart’s arteries as the traditional long duration cardio-vascular training.

Participants in the study were divided into two groups:

  • The “sprint” group performed only 3 workouts per week. Each workout consisted of 4 to 6 sets of 30 second sprints on an exercise bike. The participants pedaled slowly for 4 1/2 minutes between sets of sprints.
  • The “cardio” group worked out 5 times per week. Each workout consisted of 40-60 min of cycling at 65% of their VO2peak.

After 6 weeks, both groups showed similar improvement of arterial structure and function.

Why Is This Important?

Traditionally, as we age, our arteries become stiff and lose their ability to dilate. This leads to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

And if you don’t know why that is important, please click the above links and spend some time at the Mayo Clinic site. You might be visiting sooner than you think.

Let’s Review

  • HIIT sprints are as effective as Endurance or Cardio training at preventing age related arterial stiffening.
  • Sprint training requires a commitment of 20-30 minutes, 3 times per week (60-90 min per week) to effect that improvement.
  • Endurance training requires 40-60 minutes, 5 times per week (200-300 min per week) to effect the desired improvement.

Why wouldn’t you choose HIIT sprints?

It’s your choice.

Resources:

Exercise Bike Sprints

Hill Sprints – the before picture

Hill Sprints – the after picture

Tabata training – Resistance Training Sprint Intervals

  • For a more thorough look into High Intensity Interval Training and Energy System Training in general, check out this post.
  • Or, see this post if you need help designing your own HIIT workout program.
health healthhabits exercise fitness Energy System Training Makes Your Heart Healthier and Stronger

Energy System Training Makes Your Heart Healthier and Stronger

On April 17, I wrote an introductory article to Energy System Training. In that article:

  • I explained how each of your body’s three energy system pathways provide energy for bodily functions.
  • I also explained how each energy system could be developed through exercise.

Since that time, there has been new research conducted which proves that not only will exercise affect the function of your energy systems, it will affect the function and structure of your heart.

In this latest study, researchers have “concluded that participation in 90 days of competitive athletics produces significant training-specific changes in cardiac structure and function.”

  • Endurance Athletes (40 university rowers) expanded both the left and right ventricles of their hearts (bi-ventricular dilation).
  • As well, they improved the relaxation of the heart muscle between beats (Diastolic relaxation).
  • In contrast, Strength Athletes (35 football players) thickened the heart muscle at the site of the left ventricle.
  • Additionally, the football players experienced diminished diastolic relaxation.

What does this mean?

  • For athletes, this indicates that dramatic changes to the function of the heart’s function and structure can be achieved in a very short amount of time. Future studies will be looking at how different exercise protocols affect both the function and structure of the heart.
  • For heart disease patients, this study should indicate that as not all heart dysfunctions are the same, not all exercise prescriptions are the same. Like different drugs are prescribed for different conditions, in the future unique exercise prescriptions may be dispensed based on the patient’s unique physical condition…allowing you to make your heart healthier and stronger and more capable of the specific tasks you might ask it to do.
  • For you and the rest of the health conscious public at-large, Energy System Training Makes Your Heart Healthier and Stronger

Your prescription:  go take a long walk with some short HIIT sprints, and call me in the morning.

Energy System Training Makes Your Heart Healthier and Stronger

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Everything You Need to Know About Energy System Fitness

  • In my recent post, The Components of Physical Fitness, I broke down physical fitness into it’s bits and pieces and provided a brief introduction of each part.
  • On Monday of this week, I wrote in more detail about Proper Body Alignment and how it impacts overall physical fitness.

Today I will try to explain the concept of Energy System Fitness and how it applies to overall physical fitness.

What is Energy System Fitness?

Energy system fitness refers to the efficiency of the human body to supply energy (specifically ATP – the main source of cellular energy) to all of the it’s cells.

Depending on the intensity and duration of the activity that you are performing (sleeping, working at your computer, jogging, running from the bulls in Pamplona) your body will withdraw or synthesize ATP from one, two or even all three of it’s energy system pathways.

For maximum efficiency, the body is usually drawing from all three, but depending on the activity, one energy system pathway will usually predominate.

The three sources or energy systems are the:

  1. ATP-PC System (Phosphogen System),
  2. the Anaerobic System (Lactic Acid System)
  3. and the Aerobic System.

In this article, I will throw some science your way. If that is your thing; enjoy. If not, skip it. You can get all of the benefits of this article by sticking to the layman’s terms.

The ATP-PC Energy System Pathway

The acronym ATP-PC stands for ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) and PC (Phosphocreatine). ATP and PC work together as part of a coupled reaction to provide very rapid, very pure but ultimately short lived energy to the brain and muscles.

A good way to picture the function of ATP-PC energy is to look at at the performance of an Olympic sprinter. In the 100 metre distance, sprinters explode from the blocks, build their speed up to their personal best and then try to hold off the inevitable loss in speed as their available energy begins to drop. As their explosiveness and high rate of speed relies on their ATP-PC energy system, so does their inability to hold onto that speed past the 6 to 7 second mark.

As ATP-PC begins to fail around the 5 to 7 second mark, the body has to call upon the Anaerobic/Lactic energy system to make up for the lost ATP-PC.

Anaerobic Energy System Pathway

Like the ATP-PC energy system, the Anaerobic energy system does not require oxygen to produce ATP for energy. However, unlike the ATP-PC system, it is more complex than a simple coupled reaction.

First; pyruvate is produced from glucose. Then the pyruvate is converted into lactate. Along the way, two molecules of ATP are produced for every one molecule of glucose that is used.

Simple right? This is where the controversy about lactate and lactic acid comes in.

  • The mainstream belief is that a build-up of lactic acid causes the famous “burn” that we have all felt when we pushed ourselves to our limit. The lactic acid was thought to cause pain and fatigue and eventually cause the muscles to stop working altogether.
  • A more recent theory doesn’t blame lactic acid for the pain and fatigue. This theory says that in very intense physical activity, large amounts of ATP is being produced and hydrolysed in a very short period of time. When ATP is is hydrolysed, a hydrogen ion is released. These hydrogen ions cause the muscle cells to become acidic. This acidity manifests itself as the “burn”.

Aerobic Energy System Pathway

Merriam-Webster defines Aerobic as “living, active, or occurring only in the presence of oxygen”

The Aerobic system produces 38 molecules of ATP from each molecule of Glucose that is used. It is used throughout the body for all metabolic processes. In athletics, the Aerobic Energy System is primarily used in sub-maximal exercise such as long distance running.

The Aerobic system can be divided into 3 separate stages:

  • Glycolysis,
  • The Krebs Cycle a
  • nd Oxydative Phosphorylation.

For the purposes of this post, I will not be delving that deep into the science. Way too boring for most readers. If you are interested, look here.

Not interested in the details? Here is the abridged version…

The Aerobic system produces a stable, long lasting source of energy. However, it can not respond as quickly as the Anaerobic or ATP-PC systems. Therefore, it is the dominant system during sub-maximal activities, while the other two systems dominate the more intense athletic endeavors.

And What Does All of This Mean?

Any person that wants to develop his/her physical fitness to the best of their abilities MUST address all 3 Energy Systems.

And How Do We Do That?

Fitness programs can easily be adjusted to focus on the three different Energy Systems.

In my practice, I usually lump the ATP-PC and Anaerobic systems together. For most people, the difference between the two is negligible. So now we are left with 2 systems – Anaerobic or Maximal effort and Aerobic or Sub-Maximal effort.

Anaerobic / Maximal

Anaerobic energy system training is best addressed by High Intensity Interval Training and High Intensity Resistance Training.

Aerobic / Sub-Maximal

Aerobic training has been popular in North America since Dr. Ken Cooper published his book, Aerobics in 1968. There is a ton of info online produced by people who love aerobic training. Me…I find it boring.

Sports

Basketball is an anaerobic sport as it alternates short duration, high intensity sprints with periods of lower intensity movements around the basket. These lower intensity activities allow the anaerobic system to recharge. This sport would improve the functioning of the anaerobic system at the expense of the development of the aerobic system. The same could be said for hockey and football and football.

Long distance running is the perfect example of an aerobic sport.

NoteAn excellent illustration of different sports & how they rely on different energy systems can be seen here.

Effect on Body Composition

A common misconception exists that aerobic exercise is the best exercise to encourage fat loss. Current research is showing that theory to be false. In this study, 17 subjects were split into 2 groups, and over a 20 week period of time, performed either aerobic exercise or anaerobic exercise (in the form of H.I.I.T.). At the end of the 20 weeks, the HIIT group had lost over 3 times as much subcutaneous fat while expending less than half as many calories.

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