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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HIIT Challenge Workout

Try this HIIT workout tonight at the gym.

  • Hop up onto a stationary exercise bike – standard, recumbant or spin bike.
  • Set the bike to a challenging resistance level
  • Perform one 10-second sprint as fast as possible
  • Count the number of  revolutions your right foot performs
  • Remember the number of revs (let’s say you did 28 revs in 10 seconds)

Now for the fun stuff.

  • I want you to give me five 10-second sprints with a minimum of 27 revs .
  • 26 revs doesn’t count
  • 25 revs doesn’t count
  • Only 27 and above

If you’re lucky, you will hit 27 or above on your first 5 sprints.

If you’re unlucky, it might take 10 or more sprints to get all 5 – 27 rev sprints

But, I doubt it…You’ll be surprised how hard you can push yourself in order to get those 27 revs.

Note – Shorter rest periods are going to make this even more difficult. As such, I recommend starting with a 10 sec sprint : 50 sec rest protocol the first time you try this workout.

More Crossfit than Crossfit

Two weeks ago, I ticked off a small slice of the Crossfit world when I posted this workout video on Facebook and asked for their feedback.

Amidst the constructive criticism and numerous questions, there were a few Crossfitters who took the time to offer the following opinions:

  • worst workout I have ever seen
  • that workout is retarded
  • stupid
  • fu*king stupid
  • useless, and
  • not as good as a wide variety of different Crossfit workouts (most noticeably the Murph)

Strangely enough, when asked, none of these commenters could offer a cogent argument as to why the workout was stupid and/or retarded.

No big surprise…amongst every group there are always a few jackasses.

But…the jackasses got me thinking.

They got me thinking about how Crossfit & Crossfitters have changed during the time that I have watched Crossfit explode in popularity.

When it began, Crossfitters thrived as an “us against the world” group of amateur athletes devoted to a pursuit of physical fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive.

Crossfit’s specialty was in not specializing.

Crossfitters believed that in combat, survival, many sports, and most importantly, real life ….this kind of approach to fitness is rewarded while, on average, the specialist – bodybuilding, powerlifting, runners, etc…are punished.

So, why is it that when I talk to Crossfitters, I am noticing an increasingly close-minded approach to fitness….an attitude that Crossfit and more specifically, the WODs… are the end-all and be-all of physical fitness?

Why is it that, instead of creating the world’s most complete athletes, the focus is shifting towards creating the world’s best Crossfitters?

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And that’s where it would have ended….with me mulling over the evolution (de-evolution???) of Crossfit while sitting on my local Starbucks patio, drinking a mug of green tea, enjoying the summer sun and watching the girls walk by.

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Except that I mentioned it to my buddy Amir – aka the guy who designed the 3 Minutes of HIRT workout circuit.

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Perhaps not the brightest idea I have ever had.

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Because Amir took the criticisms a little personal….and proceeded to:

  1. engage in a few days of online arguing with the Crossfit jackasses, and
  2. take out his frustrations on his personal training clients.

But, luckily for us, after a few days of brutalizing his clients, Amir decided to:

  1. Test himself with a bunch of the hardest Crossfit WODs, and
  2. Create a bunch of new (and more Crossfit-esque) workouts for your enjoyment.

Here is the first workout.

Note: I had to split the workout into 2 videos because youtube complained that the file was too big.

Amir’s time for the workout was 15 min and 59 seconds

The circuit consists of:

1 round of:

  • 2 x 24KG Kettlebell Snatch x 25 reps
  • Pistol Squats w/ lateral bench jumps x 30 reps
  • Switch Grip Pull Ups x 35 reps
  • Dynamic Fly Push Ups x 40 reps
  • 2 x 24 KG Kettlebell Snatch x 25 reps
  • Bodyweight Dips x 50 reps

And as you may have noticed, Amir’s workout partners were not always able to perform the exact same movements as Amir.

They modified the intensity of the exercises to suit their current level of fitness.

  • Pistol Squats became a 1-Leg Squat with the off leg positioned behind the body
  • Pull Ups became Supine Body Weight Rows off of a Smith Machine
  • And the freaky Dynamic Fly Push Ups became elevated yoga block Push Ups

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So, give the workout a try and let me (and Amir) know what you think.

p.s. I left all the grunts & growns in the video for your enjoyment

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Health Habits Workout – Week 28/Day 3

Goals: Massive fat loss & amazing fitness

In Week 1 of this workout, we used a 20 sec. work : 20 sec. rest ratio during our supersets

This week, the ratio shifts to 20 sec. work : 15 sec. rest

Next week, we go to the full-on Tabata ratio of 20 sec. work : 10 sec. res

During these workouts, I want you to balance the amount weight you use with number of  reps per set .

  • If you normally like to push heavy weight…I want you to cut back and focus on the number of reps per set
  • If you normally go lighter but like to do high rep sets..then I want you to up the weight and drop the reps

The success of this program depends on you being willing to break out of your comfort zone.
And after these 3 weeks, we’re going to back off for a week with some bridge workouts….and then dive back into another 3 week cycle focusing on different exercises.

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WORKOUT WARM-UP

Feel free to mix things up during the warm-up. The goal is to warm up your muscles and to get your joints lubricated. I like the following warm-up exercises, but if you’re getting sick of them..do your own thing…as long as it gets the job done.

Circles – Starting with the ankles and moving all the way up to your neck, gently make circles with all of your joints – 10 revolutions each joint in each direction

Dead Bug – Push your lower back into the floor and articulate your arms & legs as in the video. 1 set of as many reps as possible with your lower back pushed into the floor. When your back starts to arch…STOP

1 Arm Swing Snatch – 25 reps per arm  – Dumbbell or kettlebell – choose a light weight – the goal is to warm-up

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THE WORKOUT

Exercise #1

Thrusters

  • Thrusters (BB or DB) for 20 seconds
  • Rest (standing) for 15 seconds
  • 7 sets of thrusters
  • 4 minutes & 5 seconds total
  • Perform as many reps as possible per set

No rest between work sets

Do this instead…..

  • Using a resistance band or cable station, face away from the band/cable station holding the band/handle overhead.
  • If arms overhead is too tough on your shoulders, rest your hands on your head.
  • With a “slight” forward lean, walk (gradually) forward until the resistance starts to pull you backwards or you start bending at the spine.
  • This exercise mimics a bridge/plank exercise, except instead of being in a horizontal position, you are vertical
  • To make it tougher, stand on one foot.

I will film a video for this exercise later this week. Until then, hopefully this image I created will give you a clearer idea of what I want.

Hold for 1 minute or until you catch your breath and are ready to start the next work set.

Exercise #2

Ab Wheel Roll-Out (or barbell / stability ball roll-out) (article on roll-out)

  • Roll-outs for 20 seconds
  • Rest (kneeling) for 15 seconds
  • 7 sets of roll-outs
  • 4 minutes & 5 seconds total
  • Perform as many reps as possible per set

Back to the standing cable/band bridge/plank thingie for a minute

Exercise #3

Straight Arm Pulldowns – standing – use a rope handle

  • Pulldown for 20 seconds
  • Rest for 15 seconds
  • 7 sets of pulldowns
  • 4 minutes & 5 seconds total
  • Perform as many reps as possible per set

Back to the standing cable/band bridge/plank thingie for another minute

This time – face sideways to the cable stack with your arm straight out to the side at shoulder height – stand on the leg closest to the stack – this will be tough

Exercise #4

Push-Ups

  • From the floor if you can do them
  • Using a smith machine if you can’t do floor push-ups
  • No “girl” push-ups on the knees
  • Push-up for 20 seconds
  • Rest (floor) for 15 seconds
  • 7 sets total of Push-ups
  • 4 minutes & 5 seconds total
  • Perform as many reps as possible per set

Back to the standing cable/band bridge/plank thingie for another minute

This time – sideways again (but face the opposite direction – 180 degree turn) to the cable stack with your arm straight out to the side at shoulder height – stand on the leg closest to the stack – this will be tough

At this point, you have done 16 minutes of HIIT/HIRT/Tabata work. This is the minimum amount of work for the day. However, depending upon your fitness level, I want you to try and complete all 4 exercises again – that would be 32 min of HIIT/HIRT/Tabata + the standing cable bridge exercise.

After that, you’re done for the day.

Stretch and go home

Tomorrow, it’s some easy cardio & stretching (lots of stretching)

Wednesday, it’s back to the weights

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

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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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Health Habits Workout -Week 10/Day 1

Week #10

Last week on this program.

Keep working hard. Try to move faster & rest less

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WORKOUT WARM-UP

1.  Circles – Starting with the ankles and moving all the way up to your neck, gently make circles with all of your joints – 10 revolutions each joint in each direction

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2.  Dead Bug – Push your lower back into the floor and articulate your arms & legs as in the video. 1 set of as many reps as possible with your lower back pushed into the floor. When your back starts to arch…STOP


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3.  1 Arm Swing Snatch – 25 reps per arm  – Dumbbell or kettlebell – choose a light weight – the goal is to warm-up

And now for the…WORKOUT

Superset # 1

  • 2 exercises performed back to back
  • 10 sets of each exercise
  • No rest between sets
  • 2-5 minutes rest between supersets

Exercise #1

Horizontal Wood Chops – (cable or band)

  • 10 sets
  • 5 reps per set…
  • Using a weight that would allow you to perform 10 repetitions with good form

Exercise # 2

Shuffle Lunge

  • 10 sets
  • 40 reps per set
  • Bodyweight only

Superset # 2

  • 3 exercises performed back to back
  • 7 sets of each exercise
  • No rest between sets
  • 2-5 minutes rest between supersets

Exercise #1

1 Arm Chest Press – (cable or band)

  • 7 sets
  • 5 reps per arm per set…
  • Using a weight that would allow you to perform 10 repetitions with good form

Exercise # 2

Bench Step Up

  • 7 sets
  • 10-20 reps per leg
  • Bodyweight or Dumb-Bells (no barbell)

Exercise # 3

1 Arm Standing Row

  • 7 sets
  • 5 reps per arm per set…
  • Using a weight that would allow you to perform 10 repetitions with good form

Superset # 3

  • 2 exercises performed back to back
  • 10 sets of each exercise
  • No rest between sets

Exercise #1

Toes to the Ceiling – (bodyweight)

  • 10 sets
  • Maximum reps per set…
  • Reach your hands behind your head and hold onto something solid for increased stability
  • Try to go higher up than the guy in the video

Exercise # 2

2 Leg Hip Thrust

  • 10 sets
  • 20-50 reps
  • Bodyweight only

That’s it, you’re done for today.

Stretch and go home

Tomorrow, it’s cardio & stretching (lots of stretching)

A Super-Sexy David Beckham-esque HIIT Sprint Workout

David Beckham : Men’s Health

Awhile back, Men’s Health wrote an article showing us guys how we can “Live It Like Beckham“.

Included in that article was the David Beckham Workout.

Looking at that workout almost 2 years later, I realized that…..it was a hunk of junk.

Seriously, this guy makes bazillions of dollars every year and this is the best workout that him and his team of trainers & therapists can come up with.

We can do better.

So, here we go:

1.   Strength Training

The MH article ignored Beckham’s strength training routine, so like them, we will save that part of his training routine for another article.

However, if you are interested in building some strong, powerful “athlete” muscles, start with this article.

2.    Aerobic Training

The MH article also neglected to look at Beckham’s aerobic training. Luckily for you, I am going to build some aerobic conditioning into your….

3.    Anaerobic / HIIT / Tabata Training

Alright, here’s where the fun begins.

  • 3 workouts per week
  • Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced workout
  • Increased speed, power & anaerobic endurance
  • Less of this

  • And more of this

Beginner Workouts

  • These workouts are designed for beginners who are interested in losing tons of weight and getting super-fit and ripped.
  • For beginners, I am going to assume that you are performing 2 strength training workouts per week
  • I will outline 3 Super-Sexy David Beckham-esque HIIT Sprint Workouts. The number of workouts you perform will depend upon your schedule, goals & recovery abilities.
  • My recommendation: Do all 3 workouts if you can
  • Regarding fitness equipment, I prefer trainees do these workouts while sprinting outdoors or on an exercise bike in the gym or on a Versaclimber or on a rowing machine. A treadmill can be used with lower intensity workouts, but when the sprinting gets intense, the treadmill can get a wee bit dangerous.

Workout #1

  • Warm-up – 10 mins at a perceived intensity 50% of your maximum intensity.
  • 3 minutes of sprints – 10 sec. sprint with a 50 second rest
  • 10 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (175 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute
  • 3 minutes of sprints – 10 sec. sprint with a 50 second rest
  • 10 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (175 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute

Workout #2

  • Warm-up – 10 mins at a perceived intensity 50% of your maximum intensity.
  • 3 minutes of sprints – 10 sec. sprint with a 50 second rest / 15 sec sprint with 45 sec rest / 20 sec. sprint with 40 sec. rest
  • 10 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (175 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute
  • 3 minutes of sprints – 10 sec. sprint with a 50 second rest / 15 sec sprint with 45 sec rest / 20 sec. sprint with 40 sec. rest
  • 10 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (175 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute

Workout #3

  • Warm-up – 10 mins at a perceived intensity 50% of your maximum intensity.
  • 10 minutes of sprints – 10 x 10 sec. sprint with 50 sec rest
  • Cool-down – 10 mins at a perceived intensity 50% of your maximum intensity.

Intermediate Workouts

  • These workouts are designed for intermediates who have outgrown the beginner workouts and are still interested in losing tons of weight and getting super-fit and ripped.
  • I am assuming that you are performing 2 strength training workouts per week
  • I will outline 3 Super-Sexy David Beckham-esque HIIT Sprint Workouts. The number of workouts you perform will depend upon your schedule, goals & recovery abilities.
  • My recommendation: Do all 3 workouts if you can
  • Regarding fitness equipment, I prefer trainees do these workouts while sprinting outdoors or on an exercise bike in the gym or on a Versaclimber or on a rowing machine. A treadmill can be used with lower intensity workouts, but when the sprinting gets intense, the treadmill can get a wee bit dangerous.

Workout #1

  • Warm-up – 10 mins at a perceived intensity 50% of your maximum intensity.
  • 5 minutes of sprints – 10 sec. sprint with a 50 second rest
  • 5 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (180 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute
  • 5 minutes of sprints – 10 sec. sprint with a 50 second rest
  • 5 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (180 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute
  • 5 minutes of sprints – 10 sec. sprint with a 50 second rest
  • 5 to 30 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (180 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute

Workout #2

  • Warm-up – 10 mins at a perceived intensity 50% of your maximum intensity.
  • 5 minutes of sprints – 10 sec/50 sec – 15/45 – 20/40 – 10/50 – 15/45 sec. sprint/rest ratio
  • 5 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (180 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute
  • 5 minutes of sprints – 10 sec/50 sec – 15/45 – 20/40 – 10/50 – 15/45 sec. sprint/rest ratio
  • 5 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (180 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute
  • 5 minutes of sprints – 10 sec/50 sec – 15/45 – 20/40 – 10/50 – 15/45 sec. sprint/rest ratio
  • 5 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (180 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute
  • 5 minutes of sprints – 10 sec/50 sec – 15/45 – 20/40 – 10/50 – 15/45 sec. sprint/rest ratio
  • 5 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (180 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute

Workout #3

  • Warm-up – 10 mins at a perceived intensity 50% of your maximum intensity.
  • 10 minutes of sprints – 10 x 10 sec. sprint with 50 sec rest
  • 5 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (175 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute
  • 10 minutes of sprints – 10 x 10 sec. sprint with 50 sec rest
  • 5 to 30 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (175 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute

Advanced Workouts

  • These workouts are designed for advanced trainees who have outgrown the intermediate workouts and who are almost super-fit and ripped.
  • I am still assuming that you are performing 2 strength training workouts per week
  • I will outline 3 Super-Sexy David Beckham-esque HIIT Sprint Workouts. The number of workouts you perform will depend upon your schedule, goals & recovery abilities.
  • My recommendation: Do all 3 workouts if you can
  • Regarding fitness equipment, I prefer trainees do these workouts while sprinting outdoors or on an exercise bike in the gym or on a Versaclimber or on a rowing machine. A treadmill can be used with lower intensity workouts, but when the sprinting gets intense, the treadmill can get a wee bit dangerous.

Workout #1

  • Warm-up – 10 mins at a perceived intensity 50% of your maximum intensity.
  • 2 minutes of sprints – 10 sec. sprint with 20 second rests (4 sprints total)
  • 5 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (180 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute
  • 4 minutes of sprints – 10 sec. sprint with 20 second rests (4 sprints total)
  • 5 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (180 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute
  • 2 minutes of sprints – 10 sec. sprint with 20 second rests (4 sprints total)
  • 5 to 30 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (185 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute

Workout #2

  • Warm-up – 10 mins at a perceived intensity 50% of your maximum intensity.
  • 4 minute Tabata workout – 4 x 20 sec sprint / 40 sec rest
  • 10 minutes cardio at 50% of max intensity
  • 4 minute Tabata workout – 4 x 20 sec sprint / 40 sec rest
  • 5 to 30 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (175 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute

Workout #3

  • Warm-up – 10 mins at a perceived intensity 50% of your maximum intensity.
  • 10 minutes of sprints – alternate 10/15/20 sec sprints
  • 5 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (175 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute
  • 10 minutes of sprints- alternate 10/15/20 sec sprints
  • 5 to 30 minutes cardio at 60% of max intensity OR (175 – your age) Heartbeats per Minute

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Enjoy

Waves and Waves of HIIT

This workout is dedicated to the “skinny-fat” cardio guy at my gym…you know who you are.

It’s a simple HIIT workout that is guaranteed to have you sweating buckets and burning mega calories.

THE WORKOUT

Cardio equipment of your choice (I recommend an exercise bike, but an elliptical or Versa Climber are acceptable alternatives)

  • 10 min steady state cardio at 60% of maximum perceived intensity
  • 10 min of alternating duration (Wave) sprints
  • Sprint #1: 10 sec sprint / 50 sec rest
  • Sprint #2: 15 sec sprint / 45 sec rest
  • Sprint #3: 20 sec sprint / 40 sec rest
  • Repeat for 10 sprints
  • 5 min steady state cardio at 60% of max intensity

Beginners are now finished….go home and rest

However, if you think you can handle some more HIIT, please feel free to do another:

  • 10 min of alternating duration sprints – same as above
  • 5 min steady state cardio at 60% of max intensity

And now, go home…seriously.

Note: HIIT sprints are designed to be performed at maximum intensity for maximum benefit. If your intensity starts to drop below 90% of your best effort, shut it down and call it a day. Intensity is key. It’s better to do 5 sprints at 100% intensity than 10 sprints at 75%

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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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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.

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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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The Deadpool Mega Muscle Mass Workout – Part Four

ryan reynolds muscle beard

Continuing on from Part 3 of the Deadpool Mega Muscle Mass Workout…

Psoas

Hip Flexion

In most of my clients, I see the unfortunate combination of weak yet chronically tight psoas (hip flexors).

So, for this muscle group, I like to combine strength training with an aggressive flexibility routine.

So, if you are going to train your hip flexors with this program, you NEED to balance it with some flexibility work.

  • Heavy Partial: N/A
  • Isos: Flexing your hip, push your knee/thigh into an immovable object and hold for 2-5 seconds per rep for 3-8 reps. Options include the underside of a table with your upper-body weight pushing down on the tabletop, or leaning against a wall & driving your knee into a stability ball placed against the wall, or this supine method shown in the video
  • Plyos: N/A
  • Vibrations: High Knees –  3-8 reps per leg

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy/explosive Hanging Leg Raises – 3-8 reps

Glutes/Hams

Hip Extension

  • Heavy Partial: Partial Deadlifts or Good Mornings out of a Power Rack – 3-8 reps
  • Isos: Using the same Power Rack, grab an unloaded barbell and Deadlift or Good Morning the bar up into the Power Rack pins. It’s your muscular force pulling up into an immovable object (the power rack) (see the iso bicep curl video for reference) – 3-8 reps
  • Plyos: Broad Jumps – 3-8 reps
  • Vibrations: Bodyweight Hip Thrusts –  3-8 reps – move as quick as possible

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy/explosive Hip Thrusts or Deadlifts or Good Mornings – 3-8 reps

Hams

Knee Flexion

  • Heavy Partial: Partial Glute-Ham Raise (holding DB or band resistance) – 3-8 reps
  • Isos: Partner assisted Isometric G-H Raise or Leg Curl (have a partner resist your movement) – 2-5 sec hold for 3-8 reps
  • Plyos: N/A
  • Vibrations: Seated Band Leg Curls –  3-8 reps per leg – move faster than the big fella in the video

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy/explosive Glute-Ham Raises – 3-8 reps

Quads

  • Heavy Partial: Partial Squats out of the Power Rack – 3-8 reps
  • Isos: Iso Squat out of the Power Rack (barbell or hip squat belt) – hold each rep for 2-5 seconds per rep for 3-8 reps.
  • Plyos: Depth Jumps – 3-8 reps
  • Vibrations: Jumping Squats – Bodyweight only –  3-8 reps

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy/explosive Squats, Front Squats, Zercher Squats, Bulgarian Squats – 3-8 reps

Calves

Gastroc

  • Heavy Partial: Partial Standing Calf Raise (Machine)
  • Isos: Using a barbell & a Power Rack, set the rack pins so that you can calf raise up into the pins (just like the iso bicep curls) 2-5 seconds per rep for 3-8 reps.
  • Plyos: Ankle Bounces – 3-8 reps
  • Vibrations: Light weight Calf Raises –  3-8 reps

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy/explosive Standing Calf Raises – 3-20 reps

Calves

Soleus

  • Heavy Partial: Partial Seated Calf Raise (Machine)
  • Isos: N/A
  • Plyos: N/A
  • Vibrations: Light weight Seated Calf Raises –  3-8 reps

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy/explosive Seated Calf Raises – 3-20 reps

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Alright, that’s it for Part 4 of the Deadpool Mega Muscle Mass Workout

In Part 5, I will wrap this series up by showing you how to put together your own workout as well as introducing you to the Deadpool Getting Ripped Workout

Enjoy

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The Deadpool Mega Muscle Mass Workout – Part Three

DeadPool muscle

Continuing on from Part 2

Upper Back

Horizontal Pull

  • Heavy Partial: I don’t like partial reps for any rowing exercises
  • Isos: Isometric Row – Grab hold of an immovable object (ie. heavy barbell, cable stack, piece of equipment, flagpole, etc and try to pull it towards you using a rowing motion. Neither you nor the object should move. Hold for 2-5 seconds per rep for 3-8 reps
  • Plyos: N/A
  • Vibrations: Using a light weight (dumbbells, barbell, bands, etc..), perform 1 or 2 handed speed rows as fast as possible. I prefer the bands for this…less chance of injury Remember, think hummingbird wings –  3-8 reps

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy Barbell/Dumbbell/Cable Rows – 3-8 reps

Upper Back

Vertical Pull

  • Heavy Partial: Partial Chin-Ups with added weight, Partial Pull-downs – 3-8 reps
  • Isos: Attempt to Chin-Up or Pulldown a weight that is too heavy to be moved – Hold for 2-5 seconds for 3-8 reps
  • Plyos: N/A
  • Vibrations: Using a light weight (dumbbells, barbell, bands, etc..), perform 1 or 2 handed speed rows as fast as possible. I prefer the bands for this…less chance of injury Remember, think hummingbird wings – 3-8 reps

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy Barbell/Dumbbell/Cable Rows – 3-8 reps

Lower Back – Core

Spinal Extension

  • Heavy Partial: N/A
  • Isos: N/A
  • Plyos: Overhead Medicine Ball Tosses to the rear – 3-8 reps
  • Vibrations: Band Triple Extension or Swing Snatches (light weight) – 3-8 reps

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy Swings or Good Mornings or Deadlifts – 3-8 reps

Chest

  • Heavy Partial: Partial Bench Press in the power rack – 3-8 reps
  • Isos: Isometric Bench Press – Push the bar into an immovable object (ex. Power Rack) –  Hold for 2-5 seconds for 3-8 reps
  • Plyos: Medicine Ball Chest Throws (lying or standing)
  • Vibrations: Band Chest Press for speed

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of Chest Presses for 3-8 reps

Abs – Core

Spinal Flexion

  • Heavy Partial: N/A
  • Isos: N/A
  • Plyos: Medicine Ball Slams – 3-8 reps
  • Vibrations: Standing Band Crunch – 3-8 reps

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of Standing Cable Crunches (just like the band crunch except using a pull-down cable machine) – 3-8 reps

Obliques – Core

Spinal Rotation/Lateral Flexion

  • Heavy Partial: N/A
  • Isos: N/A
  • Plyos: Rotational Medicine Ball Slams – 3-8 reps


  • Vibrations: Band Wood Chops – 3-8 reps (move faster than the girls in the video)

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of Standing Cable Woodchops  – 3-8 reps

Okay, that’s enough for today.

In Part 4, we hit the lower body

Enjoy

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The Deadpool Mega Muscle Mass Workout – Part Two

deadpool ryan reynolds

In Part 1 of the Deadpool Mega Muscle Mass Workout, I told you that:

  • By stimulating the hard to hit fast-twitch muscle fibers, even hardgainers can maximize the size, strength and power of their muscles.
  • To wake up those fast-twitch fibers, we need to use 1 of 3 different techniques:
  1. Very Intense Concentric Muscular Contractions – ex. Partial range bench press or Isometrics
  2. Very Intense Eccentric Muscular Contractions – ex. Plyometric movements (depth jumps)
  3. Very Fast Concentric & Eccentric Muscular Contractions – like a hummingbird flapping it’s wings
  • After waking up the fast-twitch fibers, we hit them with…
  1. Slightly Less Intense Concentric Muscular Contractions…through a full range of motion and performed as fast as possible. Think explosive bench presses.
  2. Slightly Less Intense Eccentric Muscular Contractions….but we drastically increase the time under tension. Sloooowwww negatives on those bench presses.
  3. With no pause at the top or bottom of the lift. The muscle is always under tension.

Today, I am going to give you some of my favorite Wake-Up Exercises and show you how to pair them with the traditional lifts to get the best results.

Wake-Up Exercises

For convenience, I am going to shorten my descriptions of the 3 style of wake up exercises.

  1. Very Intense Concentric Muscular Contractions will be called “Heavy Partial Lifts” or “Isos”
  2. Very Intense Eccentric Muscular Contractions will be called “Plyos”
  3. Very Fast Concentric/Eccentric Muscular Contractions will be called  “Vibrations”

I have broken the list of wake up exercises down by body part and/or body movement.

Hopefully, it is easy enough to follow, but if there’s a problem, please comment and I will update the post.

Here we go….

deadpool guns

Traps

Vertical Shrug Movement

  • Heavy Partial: N/A
  • Isos: Isometric Shrug – Grab hold of an immovable object (ie. heavy barbell, pins in a power rack or even sit on a bench and grab the underside of the bench) and try to shrug it. The weight should not move. Hold for 2-5 seconds
  • Plyos: Slam Shrugs – Set up a power rack with the pins slightly lower than your shrug lockout height. Grab your barbell and position it beneath the pins. Then, shrug the bar HARD into the pins. Repeat for 3-5 reps
  • Vibrations: Using a light weight (dumbbells, barbell, bands, etc..), perform 5 shrugs as fast as possible. Remember, think hummingbird wings

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy Barbell Shrugs – 3-8 reps

Horizontal Shrug Movement

  • Heavy Partial: N/A
  • Isos: Iso Face Pulls into the floor – Just like a regular standing cable face pull, except you are lying on your back and pushing your elbows back into the immovable floor – Repeat for 3-8 reps holding each rep for 1 sec.
  • Plyos : Reverse elbow strikes into a heavy bag – 3-8 reps per arm
  • Vibrations: Face Pulls using a Jump Stretch band – 3-8 reps – as fast as possible

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of Standing Cable Face Pulls – 3-8 reps

Shoulders

Overhead Pressing Movement

  • Heavy Partial: Standing or Seated Partial Shoulder Press out of a Power Rack
  • Isos: Isometric Shoulder Press – Shoulder Press into an immovable object –  Hold for 2-5 seconds for 3-8 reps
  • Plyos: Medicine Ball Shoulder Press Throws-  Repeat for 3-8 reps – think speed!!!
  • Vibrations: Shoulder press using bands – 3-8 reps – moving as fast as possible. Remember, think hummingbird wings

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy Shoulder Presses – 3-8 reps – using either barbells or dumbbells

Lateral Raise Movement

Normally, I wouldn’t use this technique for an isolation exercise such as this, but feel free…

  • Heavy Partial: N/A
  • Isos: Isometric Lateral Raise – Lateral Raise into an immovable object (ex. Power Rack) –  Hold for 2-5 seconds for 3-8 reps per arm
  • Plyos: N/A
  • Vibrations: Super-speed Lateral Raises using bands – 3-8 reps – moving as fast as possible. ala Speedy Gonzales

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy Lateral Raises – 3-8 reps – using either barbells or dumbbells

DeadPool muscle

Reverse Lateral Raise Movement

Normally, I wouldn’t use this technique for an isolation exercise such as this, but feel free…

  • Heavy Partial: N/A
  • Isos: Isometric Lateral Raise – Reverse Lateral Raise into an immovable object (ex. Power Rack) –  Hold for 2-5 seconds for 3-8 reps per arm
  • Plyos: N/A
  • Vibrations: Super-speed Reverse Lateral Raises using bands – 3-8 reps – moving as fast as possible. ala Speedy Gonzales

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy Lateral Raises – 3-8 reps – using either barbells or dumbbells

Biceps

  • Heavy Partial: Cheating Bicep Curls  or Partial Range Bicep Curls – 3-8 reps
  • Isos: Isometric Bicep Curl – Curl a barbell into an immovable object (ex. Power Rack) –  Hold for 2-5 seconds for 3-8 reps per arm
  • Plyos: Drop & Catch Bicep Curls – Start by holding a barbell at the top position of a bicep curl. As you start to lower the barbell, let it drop and catch it while your elbows are still bent. This will take some practice. You don’t want to drop the barbell. – 3-8 reps
  • Vibrations: Super-speed Bicep curls using bands – 3-8 reps – moving as fast as possible. ala Speedy Gonzales

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy Bicep Curls – 3-8 reps – keep the form strict…not like the cheat curls

Triceps

  • Heavy Partial: Partial Dips, Partial Close Grip Bench Press or Partial Pushdowns- 3-8 reps
  • Isos: Isometric Close Grip Bench Press or Iso Pushdown- Your tricep force vs an immovable object (ex. Power Rack) –  Hold for 2-5 seconds for 3-8 reps
  • Plyos: Close Grip Plyo Push Ups  – 3-8 reps
  • Vibrations: Super-speed Pushdowns – 3-8 reps – moving as fast as possible.

Immediately after completing the wake up exercise, proceed to a set of heavy Dips, Close Grip Bench or Pushdowns – 3-8 reps – keep the form strict.

Okay, that’s enough for today. This post is too long already.

Tomorrow…another bunch of exercises

Enjoy

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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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It HIRTs So Good

I just finished destroying two clients with this workout.

Enjoy….

Just another HealthHabits HIRT workout

pdf version

Exercise Videos

  • Ab Roll-Outs
  • Hindu Push-Ups

  • Bodyweight Squats (Arms Overhead) – ball not required

  • Inch Worms
  • Body-Weight Row
  • Standing Angled Woodchop (DB/Plate/Med Ball)
  • Push-Ups
  • Side Lunge
  • Shuffle Lunge
  • DB Bicep Curl & Overhead Press Combo

  • Shuffle Lunge
  • Standing Face Pull
  • Glute Ham Raise (on pulldown machine)
  • Bodyweight Skullcrushers
  • Combo Pullover / Crunch on Stability Ball (imagine the ball)
  • Seated Shoulder Press
  • Reverse Flyes (DB, Band)
  • DB Hammer Grip Bicep Curl

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HIRT Workout….No Equipment…..No Problem

Not a lot of talk today folks.

Just a killer HIRT workout for those people who find themselves without any fitness equipment.

Superset # 1

1a. Speed Squats – 5 sets of 20 reps

1b. 1 Leg Deadlift – 5 sets of 5 reps per leg (moderate speed – feel the stretch)

Note – I prefer to do the negative/lowering portion of this exercise slower

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Superset # 2

2a. Body Weight Row – 5 sets of 8 reps (table, tree, swing set, railing, etc)

2b. Push-Ups – 5 sets of 5 reps

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Superset # 3

3a. Step Ups – 5 sets of 10 reps per side

Note – Use stairs or chair or bench to replace the bench

3b. Bodyweight SkullCrushers – 5 sets of 5 reps

Note – Use stairs or chair or bench instead of the gizmo used in the video

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Superset # 4

4a. Spiderman Lunge – 5 sets of 5 reps per side

4b. Hip Bridge – Dynamic – 5 sets of 20 reps

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The Rules

  • No rest between sets
  • 60 seconds rest between supersets
  • Workout lasts for 45 minutes. If (you finish all 4 supersets in less than 45 minutes…start over at superset #1
  • Mix up the order of the supersets from workout to workout.

Print (pdf) version

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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A Reader’s Experience with HIIT

Taz love HIIT
Taz love HIIT

Obviously, I love HIIT.

And as it turns out, I am not alone.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Matt explaining how his fitness had gone through the roof after becoming a HIIT guy.

Here’s Matt’s story… in his own words:

My experience with HIIT

When I first heard of HIIT I thought it was just simply interval training, a time tested way to raise your endurance.  However I started looking into this more and its very different then just interval training, you alternate periods of very high/extreme effort with periods of low effort.  My first real HIIT session was 2-30s, 2-20s, and 1-10s intervals after a 5min warm-up.  Only 5 minutes of actual HIIT, but it left me shaky and a little light headed, but shortly after that I also had a great sense of well being.  I have since grown to really enjoy my HIIT sessions.

Results?  I started easy on HIIT and although my diet has not been as great as I have wanted I still have managed to lose 8lbs in the past 8 weeks. That may not sound like much, but I had been on a plateau prior to this for a month or so, and it should also be noted that I have lost 2.5in on my chest, 2in off my stomach, and 1in off my waist as well.  Lately I think I may be re-compositioning because in the last 2 weeks alone I have lost a ½in on both my chest and my waist with no net weight change.

bruce_lee 2The most noticeable results for me come from my martial arts sessions, particularly sparring where it can be very explosive start/stop type of a workout, I simply don’t get winded anymore and even when I start to breathe hard it’s only a matter of seconds before I can recover.  HIIT has totally supercharged my cardiovascular system, in the past my wind always went long before my muscles, now it is tending to be the other way around which lets me train harder.

The scariest part initially was seeing the HR ranges I was staying in; however everything I have read states that perceived effort (how you feel) is more important than reading the numbers.  Our max HR are all different just like how our bodies will respond to HIIT is different, as long as you are not light headed, gasping for air, your arms are not tingling, or your chest not hurting your probably fine.  But at the same regard I would not jump full bore into HIIT without some moderate prior cardio work of some sort just to gauge your current status.

Otherwise I highly recommend HIIT to anyone healthy enough to perform it that wants improve their cardiovascular system or drop some fat.

Thanks Doug for helping me along with my questions on HIIT!

Matt

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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

Today’s Workout – June 10, 2009

rocky boxing meat

Resistance Training Day

Warm-up

  • 5 min of Joint Mobility exercises & Dynamic Stretching

Workout

Superset #1

  • 10 minutes of heavy bag work – fists, knees, feet & elbows

No rest between techniques…sweat pouring off me like Niagara Falls

60 sec rest between superset 1 & 2 as I moved from the heavy bag room to the weight room

Superset #2

  • Push-Ups – various grips – Bodyweight – 10 sets of 10 reps, supersetted with
  • BW Row on Smith Machine – Bodyweight – 10 sets of 10 reps, supersetted with
  • Swing Snatch – 35 lb plate – 10 sets of 10 reps

No rest between sets

30 sec rest between superset 2 & 3

Superset #3

  • Straight Arm Pushdowns – Dynamic movement – lots of core involvement – 8 sets of 20 reps, weight pyramiding from 145 – 260 lbs., (last 3 sets 19, 16, 14 reps) supersetted with
  • Jumping / Shuffling Split Lunges – 8 sets of 40 reps, Bodyweight

No rest between sets

60 sec rest between superset 3 & 4

Superset #4

  • Cybex Incline Chest Press – 10 sets of 20 – 13 reps – weight increasing from 145 – 300 lbs, supersetted with
  • Bulgarian Split Squat – 10 sets of 7 reps, Bodyweight,

Flexibility/Mobility Training

  • no time to stretch…oops, gonna pay for that

Notes:

Short on time today. 35 minute workout. No rest between sets. No rest between supersets. Exhausted at the end of 35 minutes. Jogged to the gym and jogged/stumbled home from the gym

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Today’s Workout – June 08, 2009

one arm press paul anderson

Resistance Training Day

Warm-up

  • 10 min of Joint Mobility exercises & Dynamic Stretching

Workout

Superset #1

  • Rollouts – 10 sets of 10 reps, supersetted with
  • alternating sets of Bodyweight Squats & Bodyweight Reverse Lunges – 10 sets of 20 reps

No rest between sets – Total reps – 100 rollouts & 200 reps squats/lunges

3 min rest between superset 1 & 2

Superset #2

  • Pull-Ups – various grips – Bodyweight – 5 sets of 5 reps, supersetted with
  • 1 Arm DB Press – 75 lbs – 5 sets of 3 reps, supersetted with
  • Jumping Lunges – Bodyweight – 5 sets of 20 reps

No rest between sets

3 min rest between superset 2 & 3

Superset #3

  • 1 Arm Kneeling Pulldowns – 8 sets of 5 reps, weight pyramiding from 145 – 250, supersetted with
  • Glute Ham Raises – 8 sets of 5 reps, Bodyweight

No rest between sets

3 min rest between superset 3 & 4

Superset #4

  • Standing Cable Crunch – 7 sets of 3 reps @ 135 lbs, supersetted with
  • Bulgarian Split Squat – 7 sets of 7 reps, Bodyweight, supersetted with
  • Standing Cable Row – 2 hand – focus on scap retraction not biceps – 7 sets of 7 reps @ 225 lbs

No rest between sets

3 min rest between superset 4 & 5

Superset #5

  • Cybes Shoulder Press – 5 sets of 5 reps @ 205 lbs, supersetted with
  • DB Concentration Curl – Hammer grip – 5 sets of 5 reps @ 50 lbs

No rest between sets

Flexibility/Mobility Training

  • 15 min of stretching

10 more reasons to love High Intensity Interval Training

  1. HIIT was better than the standard  multidisciplinary approach (exercise, diet and psychological support) at helping overweight kids reduce their cardiovascular risk factorsHere’s the study
  2. HIIT can prevent cardiac death in type 2 diabetic individuals. Here’s the study
  3. HIIT should be a required treatment for all Metabolic Syndrome patients. 16 weeks of HIIT training significantly reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease, in terms of improved VO2max, endothelial function, blood pressure, insulin signaling, and plasma lipid composition. Here’s the study
  4. HIIT substantially improves insulin action. Say bye-bye to type 2 diabetes & metabolic syndrome. Here’s the study
  5. HIIT increases levels of HDL cholesterol – that’s the  good cholesterol. Here’s the study
  6. HIIT improves the HRR (Heart Rate Recovery – a measure of how quickly your heart returns to normal post-exercise)) in already well-trained cyclists. Here’s the study
  7. HIIT drastically improves cardiovascular function (V02max) in patients with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) Here’s the study
  8. Interval training produced a 302% greater increase inV02max when compared to a long, slow distance training protocol. Here’s the study
  9. HIIT significantly improved the aerobic fitness of a group of prepubescent children (aerobic fitness measured by peak oxygen consumption and maximal aerobic velocity) Here’s the study
  10. HIIT improves the erectile function of hypertension patients  Here’s the study fellas

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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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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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