Category Archives: Cardiovascular fitness
Whenever I hear that little nugget of cheese-ball inspiration, I want to throw up, because it’s usually said by some sloth that never reached his goals and he’s just trying to make sure you stay in no rush to reach yours.
I don’t know when exactly sprinting through life and achieving one goal after the next became a bad thing, but have no fear, I’ll address humanity’s aversion to sprinting throughout this article.
Our solar system hurtles around the galaxy at 450,000 mph, so our time here on this rock we call Earth (which is circling the sun at 70,000 miles an hour), in comparison to eternity is less than a blink of an eye.
The way I see it, life is an all-out sprint – and we should attack it that way.
So then what’s with the distance approach to cardio? I hear people say all the time that they entered a 10k or a marathon to get “in shape.” Is that so? I’m tempted to have these folks stand in front of a full-length mirror and ask them what shape were they looking for exactly?
If it’s extra slender, pencil-necked, and endomorphic, then I’ll condone the distance work. If they say, however, that the shape they seek is lean, muscular, and mesomorphic, then they’re barking up the wrong tree.
Furthermore, if I have one more distance-junkie proudly brag about the doctor visits, MRIs, or therapy they’re using to recover from their jogging or ultra-marathon, I’ll be forced to buy a big bat and carry it with me.
You’re proud of being injured, huh? So if I smack you in the knees with the bat and produce an injury, are you still proud? Or then are you just a masochist? Maybe such drastic measures are what it takes for you to realize that pain doesn’t equal productivity, and that you’ve been chasing the wrong dog – and way too slowly at that.
Enjoyment Versus Results
I understand that (unfortunately) many of us need something to drive us and get us moving besides the ultimate fact that training will help you live longer. And I understand that some people may simply enjoy distance jogging and/or be genetically suited for this style of training. I’m not here to argue either of those things.
The purpose of this article is to argue in favor of the benefits of sprinting. And interestingly enough, whether you like jogging or are naturally skinny or slow, you can still benefit from this all-powerful training medium.
Don’t think we need this argument? Then explain why most people stop sprinting by high school. Explain why most parents tell their children to stop running and slow down.
Plain and simple, besides the Olympic 100-meter final, sprinting gets much less love than distance work. Whether it’s the marketing of jogging gear, the social aspect of distance events, or the fact that “No Pain, No Gain” is imbedded into the average training psyche, you’re sure to see more people walking and jogging at your local track than to see them sprinting short portions of it, resting, and repeating.
In a world slowly being taken over and dominated by brightly colored equipment tools and fancy programming, we’ve forgotten to use the most important piece of equipment we were given, our body. And we’ve definitely forgotten to use it the way it was designed – to sprint.
Why Do We Run Marathons?
In Train Like a Man Part 4, I suggested that if Baron Pierre de Coubertin loved American folklore instead of Greek tragedy, perhaps we’d have millions of people lining up to test themselves in the 100 meter instead of 26 miles.
If our hero was a steel drivin’ sprinter, rather than a solitary noncombatant whose chosen pursuit literally ran him – and millions of poor souls centuries later to follow – into the ground, just perhaps the world and its view of fitness would be different.
In all the emails I’ve ever received, I don’t think I’ve ever received anything from a recreational athlete telling me they’re entering a 100-meter dash.
Why? Because it’s not okay to suck in a sprint.
If you jog – especially if you enter a marathon – it’s okay to be mediocre. By contrast, it’s decidedly not okay to suck at sprinting.
Show up to an actual race and take thirty seconds to run 100 meters and you’re absolutely exposed for the world to see. Suck at sprinting in the wild, and you’re somebody’s dinner.
Suck at the marathon, on the other hand, and they’ll hand you a juice box and a medal, even if you come in last.
The Paleo Idea
Add speed and power to any movement and the body changes. Look at a sprinting athlete versus a distance athlete. Large, developed muscles are the norm on just about any athlete involved in sprinting.
So why does this happen? You could cite the activation of the larger fast twitch fibers in sprinting or how cutting weight and losing muscle improves distance performance, but what about the “why” behind how sprinters look leaner and more muscular from seemingly much less work?
I have an interesting theory using the popular Paleo concept.
No one thinks twice about applying the Paleo concept to eating, but what about its application to movement? In terms of body development, sprinting is the ultimate Paleo exercise – and perhaps many of the problems we face today as a society are because this movement is no longer used during most peoples’ daily routine.
(Granted, like all Paleo arguments, this is mere speculation. Were we meat eaters or vegetarians? Were we distance runners or sprinters? Until we invent a time machine, we’ll just continue to enjoy the brainstorming and debate, but it’s still interesting to speculate.)
The TFW Lock-And-Key Mechanism of Sprinting
When I address groups of people, I ask them if they think ingesting 1000 calories of junk food has the same effect on the body as ingesting 1000 calories of fruits and vegetables.
Without fail, according to the Paleo dogma, every attendee answers the same way – they believe that a calorie isn’t just a calorie. So in terms of energy intake, most people agree that due to the way the human body was designed and has evolved, there are particular foods that can act as keys and unlock specific pathways to either promote health (muscle gain, fat loss, etc.), or allow detrimental effects (diabetes, cancer, heart disease) when those proper pathways aren’t accessed.
Well if we can all agree on energy intake, I’m confused why people rarely discuss caloric output in the same manner? If there’s an optimal input mechanism of calories to achieve optimal health, what about an optimal output mechanism?
If muscle growth, fat loss, and health are what you’re after, I argue that sprinting may be the key that no one’s using – because those thousand calories you’re burning when you jog aren’t nearly the same as when you burn them off at a sprint. Not even close.
That’s because when you jog, you’re not using your body the way it’s designed to be used. That’s what sprinting is for. I mean, why have an Achilles tendon if we’re supposed to run on our heels? Why have huge glutes if we’re supposed to simply jog monotonously and see how long we can last?
Is the reason we have big traps because we’re supposed to act as perpetual motion machines for the better part of five hours at a time? And why the hell are our quads so big if we’re just supposed to pound them with muscle-eating eccentrics from jogging? It makes no sense to me, and it shouldn’t make any to you, either.
Sprinting: The Real Measure Of Fitness
Distance jogging makes your lifts go down. Your muscle mass decreases and you have to accept it. On the other hand, sprinting mandates that you get your numbers higher to complement it.
To lower your marathon time, you need to get out and log miles, cut weight (including muscle), and get ready for pain. To lower your time in the 100-meter sprint you need to get strong, pack on muscle, lose fat, and get in some explosive, technical workouts.
So if you want to run faster, you have to do a few things:
- You have to increase your relative body strength, so you have to get stronger for the amount you weigh. You can accomplish this by adding muscle or losing fat, or both.
- You have to improve your sprint technique. This will be done through technical work, which will improve coordination. Here you may recognize specific areas in which to improve strength while developing muscular endurance specific to sprinting. And this is where my next article will focus.
So, to review, sprint training involves improvements in speed, strength, diet, endurance, coordination, and flexibility. Sounds a whole lot like fitness to me. To top it off, sprinting will also help any marathon runner. Too bad the opposite isn’t true.
But before you fans of distance running fire off your emails defending your chosen sport, I’m not saying that elite distance athletes aren’t impressive in terms of time Ð I’m saying they’re usually not impressive in terms of physique.
A guy that can run an under 5-minute mile pace for 26 miles is impressive in ability, no doubt, but he’s probably not concerned with having bigger arms or legs, or is even reading T Nation for that matter.
My Train Like a Man articles are for guys concerned about building mass, getting strong, and being able to clean clocks. And if I have to scrap, I’ll choose to battle the jogger over the sprinter every time.
Now that I’ve made a case for sprinting, Train Like a Man 6 will cover one of the muscle groups that will benefit most from this exercise.
Strength athletes are a studly bunch. We’re consistent, disciplined, structured, and often blessed with a high tolerance for pain. We also tend to sport a bit of an ego, a result of having fellow gym rats stare at us in fear and admiration. That ego, however, can get us into trouble, like when it comes to cardio.
Strength athletes tend to embrace cardio the way a housecat does a cold shower. Some simply choose to avoid it, often resulting in a beastly strong individual that gets winded climbing one flight of stairs and whose gut more resembles a beer keg than a six-pack.
Others embrace cardio. This group studies up, and learns that “conditioning” is better for them than cardio. So they add a variety of HIIT workouts and brutal circuits and complexes.
Their conditioning workouts are often more challenging – from a fatigue point of view – than their strength workouts; a result of them applying that, “I’ll make my body do what I tell it to do” attitude that’s served them so well with their resistance training to their conditioning workouts.
The end result is usually an in-shape and physically fit individual that finds himself standing on the bronze medal platform instead of the gold. What are they doing wrong?
That aforementioned ego is steering them in the wrong direction. A big ego is great in the weight room – the four-plate bench press gets all the looks, not doing 225 for six sets of eight with 30 seconds rest.
But the cardio/conditioning workouts that get similar nods of respect are not ideal for the strength athlete. And it all comes to down to energy systems.
According to the principle of specificity, our body reacts specifically to the stimulus we present to it. Training brutally hard for several minutes or longer with minimal rest is likely the best way to test what the body is capable of – but it’s not the best way to keep a strength athlete in shape, as it’s challenging a different energy system.
Strength athletes are kings of the phosphagen energy system. The phosphagen or ATP/CP system is a short duration system, usually lasting for about six seconds at full power before petering out completely by 30 seconds.
It relies on ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) and CP (creatine phosphate) for fuel rather than oxygen. It takes 30-60 seconds for a moderate recharge of its fuel reserves, and 3-5 minutes for a near-full recharge.
The glycolysis system is a moderate duration system – it starts kicking in at around the 15-second mark, hits full-speed by 30 seconds, and then starts to fade significantly after about the one-minute point. It uses glucose as a fuel source, which can come directly from the blood and, if the activity is long enough, can be pulled from the stored glycogen in the muscles.
When operating anaerobically, the glycolysis system lasts less than two minutes and produces lactate, which is associated with an intense burning sensation in the muscles that most fitness enthusiasts are familiar with.
However, the glycolysis system can also operate aerobically, which doesn’t produce as much lactate, although the power produced by way of this pathway is generally lower and lasts about five minutes.
The phosphagen system is the butt kicker in the gym. This is the system that powers massive squats and benches, powerful shot puts and slam-dunks, killer knockout punches and kicks, and lightning fast 100-meter dashes.
While these things are all badass, they’re not really that hard – they don’t produce the same level of total body fatigue as something powered by the glycolysis system.
The glycolysis system is the king of conditioning. This powers the 400-800 meter runs, the 500-1000 meter rows, maximal push-ups for time, and five set drop-sets on the leg press.
Too much time spent training the glycolysis system will cause the body to adapt to becoming proficient at that system, which usually causes a shift away from optimum performance with the phosphagen system.
It’s no coincidence that the guy who wins the 100-meter dash in the Olympics is rarely the guy that wins the 400-meter. Likely, the most performance-affecting shift is an altering of neuromuscular coordination for that activity accompanied by a shifting of motor unit recruitment and muscle fiber make-up.
So what do we do?
Strength athletes must leave their ego at the door when it comes to conditioning. That isn’t a license to get fat and out of shape, but we don’t want to be that guy in the middle of both the conditioning and strength world – too weak to be a good strength athlete, and not in good enough shape to kick ass in all the conditioning challenges.
We need to listen to our brain, not our ego. We need to focus on the phosphagen system.
- When conditioning, hard exertion should generally last 5-15 seconds – rarely more than 15 seconds, and never more than 30 seconds. When in doubt use a shorter work period.
- Each exertion period should be followed by 30-60 seconds of easy activity or passive rest; something one could easily do continuously for 30 minutes or more.
- Multiple rounds of the above work and rest periods should be performed 5-15 times (or more, if necessary).
- One should not be doubled over, nauseated, or puking during/after these workouts. Think about how you feel doing sets of three in the gym; it should feel a bit like that.
- Work hard for ≈5-15 seconds, shorter is often better
- Perform easy rest (active or passive) for ≈30-60 seconds
- Repeat 5-15+ times
- Avoid feeling like you’re going to die
Real World Example
Prowler. At my gym we have a challenge that’s 10 trips (about 35 yards) with the Prowler loaded to 90 lbs, performed for time. The guy who holds the current record is one hell of a hard worker and won’t quit, but he can’t squat 315 for a single. This is not the challenge strength athletes should be working on.
We have another Prowler challenge that’s a max weight pull for 10 meters using a harness. Guess who has that gym record? One of my powerlifting teammates.
Instead of a long and grueling event, it’s better to do a Prowler push of 5-20 yards (with longer distance use less weight) with 30-60 seconds rest, multiple times.
Ski Erg. Ski very hard for 10 seconds, then easy (just enough to keep the machine on) for 20 seconds. Repeat for 3 -10 minutes. The 20-second rest is shorter than standard recommendation, but 45-50 seconds of rest is too long for this drill. Note this is the inverse of the Tabata protocol, which can work well for strength athletes in some situations.
Jump rope. Jump for 15 seconds, rest for 30-45 seconds, depending on fitness and skill. Try to jump faster than normal since it’s such a short duration. Do for 5-15 minutes total.
Track. A spin on the classic “sprint the straights, walk the curves.” Sprint half of the straight, walk the rest, sprint half of the curve, walk the rest, etc., which works out to about 50-meter sprints or four sprints for the quarter mile. Do this for one-half to 1.5 miles.
Jacob’s ladder. Climb fast for 15 seconds (30-50 feet), rest for about 30 seconds, and repeat.
Complexes. You can still use barbell complexes, but only perform 1-3 reps per movement. This makes the complex much shorter and you can use a lot more weight. You can also perform more complexes if you desire (rest about a minute after each).
Five-meter sprints. I’ve always liked these and they can be performed inside an aerobic studio if necessary. Sprint for five meters (should take about 3-4 steps), stop, turn around, walk back to the starting position, and repeat. Repeating 10-30 times works well. Warm-up if you’re not used to sprinting, and it’s okay to go less than 100% while acclimating to this activity.
Heavy bag. Boxing kicks ass but boxers have to be capable of going three minutes, strength athletes don’t. To go for time, hit the heavy bag for 10-15 seconds. I prefer to count punches – 15-20 good punches and then rest. This ratio also works well with a sledgehammer and a tire.
Car push/pull. We’ve all seen strongmen struggle with a truck or freight train on ESPN for a full minute so we assume that’s best for us, but it’s not. Pull hard for 10-15 seconds, rest a bit and catch your breath, and repeat. Use a distance it might take you one minute to cover with the car and then break that distance into four sets.
Rowing machine. The rowing machine has a default program of rowing 500-meters with one-minute rest and then repeating. That’s a strength athlete’s nightmare. Instead, row 50 meters hard, then 100 meters very easy, and repeat that for about 2000 meters total.
Circuits. You can use circuits, but follow two rules: keep each station short (10-15 seconds) and rest about 30-60 seconds between stations. I do a car push/heavy bag/15-yard hill sprint next to my house, which makes for a great circuit. Get creative.
Of course this list is just meant to get you started. Apply the basic principles outlined here and you’ll be fine.
Choosing Your Rest
How you rest is up to you and the activity you’re performing. Some activities lend themselves to easy active rest like the Ski Erg, the rowing machine, or any piece of cardio equipment.
Generally, active rest should be no more challenging than a brisk walk. You need to be able to recover during the rest period, otherwise it’s too hard. At times the best rest will be simply standing still. If you’re pushing the Prowler for 15 yards hard with 30 seconds of rest, it makes no sense to do anything but just stand there and recover.
Steady state cardio. Walking is still a good choice for maintaining or increasing VO2 max and just making you feel healthier. I’ve long been a fan of walking and it causes little to no motor unit and muscle fiber transition. Most strength athletes can’t jog regularly without it affecting their 1RM’s.
You can still perform some grueling glycolysis-based conditioning events if you want to, but they should be done rarely (once a month sounds about right) and simply as a test to see where you are mentally and physically. Don’t try to master that “test” by practicing it too regularly – you might ace the test but fail the class!
Putting it all Together
Perform this strength-training friendly conditioning 1-4 times per week, depending on your goals and time available. Those with weight loss or lofty conditioning goals should be on the higher end of the scale. Perform it after your regular strength-training workout or as a separate workout – it would likely have a negative affect on your training if performed before the main workout.
Keep the conditioning workout under 30 minutes total (15 minutes works well) including the rest time, and again, don’t feel like you’re going to die during the workout. That sensation is the glycolysis system pushing your ego to the limit.
Put the allure of being “pretty good” at everything aside and focus on your specific goals – becoming a stud in the gym, and someone that can lift heavy-ass weight repeatedly with short rest for a long period of time. Your physique, PRs, and your ego will thank you for it!
Every successful career has hiccups along the way. Making mistakes and learning from them are the bricks and mortar of a long and productive career.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve stolen points from the best of ’em to advance my own training knowledge. In doing so, there were principles and exercises that I readily accepted as gospel and would defend from the tallest tree.
This is how it is. Disagree? Well, you’re just misinformed.
But times change. New research is performed, new information becomes available, and it only makes sense that methodologies would evolve. That is, unless you’d rather stay “right” than admit you were wrong.
1. My Revised Take on Cardio
My one-track mind nearly eliminated the possibility of using conventional “cardio” for fat loss. I sided with the many coaches who argued that slow-go cardio was a potential muscle-waster, not to mention woefully inefficient at burning calories.
Though there is some science to support this position, I realize now that there’s a big fat exception to this:whether to perform steady state cardio depends on the size and musculature of the individual.
Steady state cardio – especially the fasted version – can be a great tool for intermediate and advanced trainees that carry a significant amount of muscle mass.
People generally support interval training as it will have a greater affect on the metabolism, primarily because it promotes two things:
- Oxygen debt
- Utilization of fast-twitch muscle fibers
But if you’re carrying a lot of muscle, chances are you’ve lifted, pushed, and pulled a lot of heavy things to get there. That means your fast twitch fibers have been thoroughly exercised – since they’re the strongest fibers available – so it won’t be the end of the world if you add in a bit of steady state cardio during fat loss phases.
Bodybuilders are perfect examples. While some high-intensity cardio has made it’s way into their fat loss programs, isolation splits combined with a good, clean diet, and fasted and/or post workout cardio still dominate the scene. This improves thermogenesis – heat production within the body – that helps burn fat.
While anaerobic training is what makes athletes like sprinters and running backs get so lean and muscular, most of us are just regular exercise enthusiasts, not pro athletes, meaning we can’t expect to train – or look – like Adrian Peterson.
But we can lift weights and train our strength and anaerobic capacity. Once we’re big and strong, as long as we don’t go overboard, we can use steady state cardio to achieve some solid fat loss.
2. The GHR – A Little-Known Knee Killer?
Don’t worry, I’m not about to completely outlaw such a great exercise. But here’s what I’ve found.
I’ve had several clients complain of knee discomfort during or after a workout that involved a variation of the glute-ham raise (GHR), most often the eccentric GHR.
At first, I didn’t think that this exercise was the culprit, but a couple of sit-downs with a practitioner-buddy of mine had me thinking it might be something to use on a case-by-case basis.
Some say the GHR is a “closed chain” movement since the feet don’t move anywhere during the movement, but here’s the catch. Just like a seated leg extension, a GHR makes only one set of muscles act on the knee joint during the movement (hamstrings). There isn’t a co-contraction of muscles on both sides of the joint.
This can produce the same amount of shear from the opposing side, and therefore pull on the corresponding ligaments that attach to the tibia away from the femur.
With an actual GHR machine, it’s normally not that bad. But when we go into variations like the makeshift eccentric GHR, the shear is intensified since the entire weight of the body is resting on the tibia, inaddition to the hamstrings’ contraction pulling it even further. That means a lot of stress on your PCL.
Still, some are more resilient to shearing forces than others. We all know guys who’ve been doing leg extensions and other open-chain movements for years with zero joint problems, while others get shooting pains if they so much as look at a leg extension machine.
The moral of the story? If you’re using the eccentric GHR in your training, be cautious of its effects. Hopefully you don’t fall into the contraindicated group.
3. “Functional Training” Revisited
The more I looked into it, the more variety I found in trainers’ definition of the term “functional.”
Sure, we have the basic exercises that have carryover into typical day-to-day situations like squatting, deadlifting, and standing pressing. But do we avoid biceps curls, hamstring curls, or bench presses because they seemingly don’t carry over to our daily grind?
Fact is, functional training can take on whatever description we want it to. A hamstring curl action has very little “real life” application, but one of the functions of the hamstrings is to flex the knee, and hamstring curls recreate this movement.
I advocate the big bang movements as much as the next guy. If our muscles aren’t performing their prime actions the way they should, then the number one exercise choices should always be those that enhance those prime actions.
However, I’ll humbly add that most T Nation readers seek strength and hypertrophy. What if we want bigger arms, and we’ve already spent the last three months overhead pulling, farmers’ walking, and close-grip pressing our way to oblivion?
Do we continue to avoid biceps curls because they’re “isolation” movements despite the stimulation for the biceps they provide? Do we still steadfastly avoid skull crushers or pressdowns, even though our horseshoes better resemble shoelaces?
Focus on the must-do’s first, keeping your muscular and skeletal health in check, but sometimes building up your body means training like a bodybuilder. In certain cases, that means isolating right down to the muscle.
4. Stretching and Foam Rolling
For a long time I used this stuff as an “answer.” Today I use it as a “prescription.” In almost all cases, muscles become tight because of a deficient muscle somewhere else. Usually the tight muscle is taking on the role of a muscle that isn’t pulling its own weight. A perfect example would be a pair of tight hamstrings picking up the slack for a set of inactive glutes.
A good rule of thumb is that when a muscle appears deficient, the answer isn’t always to give that muscle more attention. Considering this, we should be able to look at our weak links to see which smaller muscles aren’t doing everything they should to contribute to a functional body.
Flexibility and ROM increases will come immediately through restoring your antagonistic balance. This can be as simple as activating dormant muscles that for a while have been compensated for by the big dogs.
The true “answer,” in my book, is mobility. One of my favorite books is Assess and Correct by Eric Cressey. It has hundreds of drills that make small muscles fire up to create or restore range of motion.
I’m not saying that stretching and foam rolling to respectively lengthen and improve tissue quality is a waste of time. I still use them, and you should, too.
My advice is to turn it into a tactical approach. Instead of prescribing stretching and rolling to any ailment under the sun, start thinking in three ways: improve tissue quality first, activate muscles second, reduce inhibitions third.
Use foam rolling for myofascial release, dynamic warm ups to add range of motion and activate dormant muscles, and then static stretching to muscles that are “blocking” proper movement patterns, such as tight hip flexors affecting pelvic position during a back squat or Romanian deadlift.
5. A Quiet Tweak to Training Volume
This might be stating the obvious, but not all programs are for everyone.
Training volume should be tailored to each athlete, and failing to recognize this is what keeps some athletes from seeing continued progress.
I first experienced this as a collegiate track and field athlete. We sprint athletes would have our workouts set by the coach, though we’d train alongside the athletes from other disciplines (the jump athletes, etc). This was done for simple time management reasons, as it was the easiest way to train a bunch of athletes at the same time.
But each athlete isn’t going to respond to the same training volume the same way – especially when our “base” workouts, usually Mondays, would often look something like this:
- Dynamic warm-ups/flexibility work
- Plyometric/ballistic training – Static jumps, stairs, uphill jumps, med ball work
- Base training workout – 300m + (2)200m + (2)150m @ 85% of max effort
- Core training circuit or weight training circuit
Needless to say, that’s a tough workout and would leave me destroyed. I’d be so sore that it would sometimes affect the practice on Tuesday.
This example is intended to show that quality is everything where training for performance is concerned. Big, tough, and heavy workouts have their place, but if you want to get stronger, bigger, or both, you haveto know when your body is working at its physiological peak, and when it’s starting to go down hill.
Once that line is crossed, it’s a good idea to cut your workout short, or heavily modify its contents.
I’m sure my track coach had the best of intentions, but not everyone’s going to have the same threshold and work capacity. Some levels of DOMS don’t need to be reached, and certainly not repeatedly.
Since you’re not training with a team and can control your workout, don’t be afraid to modify your programming. It may not take longwinded workouts to make your muscles big and strong.
Don’t Worry, I Haven’t Turned Into a Pansy
The smarter I get as a trainer, the more I’m reminded that there are many methodologies, techniques, and strategies for doing things, and many ways to achieve a desired result.
However, true wisdom comes from recognizing that what might work supremely well for person A could be a disaster for person B. In reality, it’s not the exercises that are contraindicated, but the people who do them. Stay aware of that and play your game, not someone else’s.
With age comes perspective and more importantly, wisdom. A lot might change in the next five years, but I can’t see that principle going anywhere.
1) You’re Eating Too Many Carbs
2) You’re Eating Carbs at the Wrong Time
3) You’re Eating Too Much Fat
4)You’re Not Eating Enough Protein
5) You’re Drinking Too Many Protein Shakes
6) Your Liver is Over Stressed
7) You’re Eating Nuts
8) You’re Eating Fruit
9) You’re Not Training Heavy
10) You’re Overdoing Cardio
11) You’re Not Running Sprints or Doing Sled Work
12) You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
>1. FACT/FICTON: Cardio burns more calories than strength training.
Contrary to long-held belief, strength training is—as new studies have shown—superior to steady-state cardio in caloric burn. In one University of Southern Maine study, participants blasted as many calories doing 30 minutes of weight training as they did running at a six-minute-per-mile pace for the same amount of time. Unless you’re Lolo Jones, strength is your best bet.
The other huge benefit of weight training? It boosts your metabolism after your workout—and builds muscle that will further increase your fat-burning potential in the long run. “If you do steady-state cardio, when you leave the gym, that’s it for your calorie burn,” says David Jack, general manager of Competitive Athlete Training Zone in Acton, Massachusetts. “But when you do strength work, you’ll continue to burn calories for up to 36 hours.”
Cardio vs. Strength training face-off. Which really burns more calories?
2. You can reduce cellulite through exercise.
Cottage-cheese thighs can affect even the fittest athletes, and though exercise can’t prevent cellulite, it can help reduce the appearance of those tell-tale dimples. Cellulite is fat, so calorie-blasting activities and the right nutrition can make your skin look smoother. Likewise, weight gain can make cellulite worse.
“Women lose about five pounds of muscle per decade, and they lose most of it where they don’t use their muscles: where they sit. When they lose that muscle in their hips and thighs, the overlying layer of fat doesn’t have much of a foundation, so it starts to get pockmarked,” explains Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., author of No More Cellulite. “Strength training can play a major role to tone that muscle and get the firm foundation back.”
Westcott recommends moves that target your hips, quads, and hamstrings, but says not to ignore your other muscles. “Since all strength exercises boost your metabolic rate, they’ll decrease fat too,” he says.
3. Crunches are one of the best moves to target your abs.
You probably know crunches are old-school, but you may not know hwy they’re not very effective. What’s their weakness? Most women initiate crunches with their hip flexors without engaging much of their core. This may get the surface muscles in your abs, but it ignores the ones underneath, which are also essential to a flat stomach.
Plus, crunches mimic the sitting posture we use for much of the day. “We don’t want to exacerbate this ‘hips flexed/shoulders hunched’ position,” Jack explains. “The point of training is to fix the gaps and do something different. Crunches repeat a similar movement pattern.
A better bet for flat abs? Focus on moves like the plank and side plan that work often-neglected areas of your core. And don’t forget your butt, too. Weak glutes push your stomach out and give you a belly even if you don’t have one. (Not fair, we know!)
4. Exercise immediately improves your ability to learn.
It sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. In a study at the University of Muenster in Germany, participants who ran sprints learned new words 20 percent faster than those who did nothing. Other research has tied physical activity to improve attention and memory as well.
“Exercise is the best thing we can do to ready our brain to learn,” says John J. Ratey, M.D., author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. “We know that the cells become more malleable and ready to make connections. And the learner is more focused, calm, and motivated—[she’s] ready to learn.”
Physical activity has one other major perk too: It increases production of the stem cells that develop new brain cells.
Ratey has found that both aerobic activities and strength training have benefits to the brain, but that more complicated forms of exercise—like tennis and soccer—provide the biggest boost. “You’re taxing more parts of the brain in those activities, which helps it grow,” he explains.
5 Ways to boost your brainpower.
5. The morning is the best time of the day to exercise.
If you have your pick of any time of the day, the late afternoon would be your ideal workout window. Muscle strength and body temperature both peak somewhere between 4 and 6 p.m., allowing you to work out heard with less effort. And you’ve eaten breakfast and lunch, meaning you’ll have much more fuel in your tank.
“Also, your threshold for pain is at its highest in the afternoon and your mental clarity is still there,” says Jack. “Of all the different variables, the most are in place at that time of day.”
Studies have show that the body can adapt to peak performance at any time, though, so if you’d rather work out in the morning or evening, go for it. “The best time of day to train is the time that you’re able to actually do it. That’s most important,” notes Jack.
6. Running a marathon increases your risk of a heart attack.
A May 2009 study form Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital and the University of Manitoba confirmed what other studies had previously said: Marathons do cause short-term injury to the heart, but thankfully, they don’t seem to cause lasting damage. In this study, MRIs were used to show abnormalities in the hearts of runners in the Manitoba Marathon. They tracked 14 athletes, and all showed cardiac stress immediately after the race. After a week of rest, however, the runners’ hearts showed no long-term effects, and for most, heart function had returned to pre-marathon levels.
The key to staying safe? If you’re a newbie, talk to your doc beforehand, and make sure you train enough for the big event. A big stressor to the heart comes when runners attempt to do much more on marathon day than they’ve done in training. Also, remember that the overall risk is still very low: It’s estimated that there are only four to eight deaths per million marathon runners.
7. Lift weights quickly to increase the burn.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, the opposite is actually true. When you blaze though each move, you often use momentum instead of your muscles, and you also increase your risk of injury. “If you go too fast, you’ll muscle through areas that are weak,” Jack says.
Do the same reps more slowly (try counting to three while you lift up, and another three while you lower) and you’ll get more burn for your buck.
Westcott has done two slow-lifting studies published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. In each, on group did 10 reps of each exercise that lasted seven seconds per rep, while the other group did five reps in 14 seconds. At the end of the study, the “slow” group averaged 5o percent stronger than the regular-paced group.
Unfortunately, lifting slow can be torturous, too. Wescott says that in his study, only tow of the 15o people wanted to continue training the slow way. “It was too hard; they just didn’t like it. So we use it as one of our tools in our toolbox, but not as our standard technique.”
8. Stretch before you run.
Stretching is a hot-button issue in running circles, and while “stretch before you run” used to be the conventional wisdom, new research has shifted this opinion. Recently, a review by epidemiologist Ian Shrier, M.D., of six stretching studies in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found that none of the studies showed that stretching before exercise prevented injury.
Olympian Jeff Galloway has coached more than 250,000 runners and no longer recommends a pre-run stretch. “I used to be a huge advocate of stretching, but over the years, thousands of runners have described how they were injured by stretching.” He says what when his runners stopped stretching, the injuries almost always went away.
But this doesn’t mean that you should never stretch, or that it’s OK to skip a warmup before starting your run. Robert Maschi, a physical therapist at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery and author of RunMetrics, tells his clients to do five to 10 minutes of a slow jog before increasing speed to a normal training pace. After the run, he recommends static stretches held for 30 seconds to a minute. “[Do] a comfortable stretch that’s not overly aggressive,” he advises.
9. Skinny people are always healthier than overweight people.
Take heart, our slow-metabolism sisters: They key to good health is not just your weight. “We judge each other by how we look,” says Jack. “That’s like driving by a beautiful house, but when you walk in, the place is a mess. We don’t know what our real health markers are.” Use measurements like resting heart rate,blood pressure, and cholesterol to monitor your health, not your six-pack or lack thereof.
Though belly fat in particular has been linked adverse health effects, some doctors believe it’s the invisible fat around your organs that could cause the most trouble. And this fat is prevalent in people who don’t exercise—whether they’re thin or chubby. Jimmy Bell, Ph.D., a professor of molecular imaging at Imperial College, has used an MRI scan on nearly 1,000 people to locate where fat is on the body. Bell found that even among those with normal BMI scores (20 to 24.9), as many as 20 percent had excessive levels of internal fat.
Bell feels that physical activity is the key to reducing these inner fat stores, because many of the seemingly thin subjects stayed at a healthy weight through diet but didn’t work out. “There are no shortcuts. Exercise has to be a part of everyone’s lifestyle,” he says.
Can heavy really be healthy?
In short: Overweight-but-active beats thin-but-inactive any day.
Posted on 03 July 2009 by Zuzana – BodyRock.Tv
Strength athletes love to quote the research showing that cardio can decrease force production. I’ve used it myself to justify doing only 20 minutes of cardio a week just so I could spend more time lifting heavy shit. Others use it as an excuse to be fat and out of shape.
I think all of us need some element of conditioning in our training programs. We all need to include something that raises our heart rates and improves our overall endurance. Those activities not only increase our ability to train hard and train well, they also improve our health. And, most of all, they help us reduce bodyfat.
That said, I’m no fan of jogging for strength athletes. If you’re more interested in strength performance, I think shorter and more intense cardio workouts will improve your conditioning without any risk of decreasing your strength or power.
Brisk walking, especially if you go up an incline and/or walk with a weighted backpack, is great for general conditioning. Do it a few times a week and you should notice significant improvements in your overall fitness levels, along with some noticeable reductions in the size of your gut.
If steady-state cardio isn’t your thing, you can try interval training. Keep the workouts short — 20 to 30 minutes of combined work and rest intervals. Go short and really hard, rather than long and “kind of” hard. The classics like farmer’s walks, sandbag carries, sled pulls, car pushes, tire flips, and sledgehammer work are also good ideas. You’re only limited by your creativity.
Spend 30 to 120 minutes per week on your overall conditioning and you’ll feel better, look better, and have better overall stamina for your workouts and other activities. You may or may not get stronger, but you sure don’t have to worry about getting weaker.
If you’ve been doing 20 minutes of steady state cardio three times per week and your fat loss results have slowed down, it’s safe to say that one of the reasons you’ve reached a plateau is because you’re just not doing enough.
For most people aiming for a traffic-stopping, totally shredded physique, I recommend doing high intensity interval training (HIIT) three times per week and steady state cardio about three times per week. As for volume per session, 20 minutes total is a good rule of thumb for HIIT, while at least 30 minutes is optimal for steady state work.
You definitely need to reevaluate your progress every couple of weeks. If you’re not progressing after two weeks, add five minutes to each cardio session and fine-tune your diet even more. At some point, you may also need to bump up the frequency of your steady state sessions, and maybe even add another HIIT session per week.
Going up to as many as seven hour-long sessions per week might be necessary to achieve the freaky ripped, vascular leanness you desire. However, I wouldn’t increase the HIIT to more than four (maybe five) days per week.
The good news is that it’s harder to get lean than it is to stay lean. So, while you may have to do what seems like endless amounts of cardio to get ripped, it won’t take near that much to keep your condition.
This month, since I’m turning 50, I’m trying to prove that birthdays—even milestone ones like this one—are the most inconsequential change of all. It’s what’s in our heads rather than in our bodies that makes the real difference. But that’s not to say our bodies don’t undergo some pretty significant changes as we approach the Metamucil Years. In fact, here’s what happens to three of the biggest components of athletic performance:
According to research conducted at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (how did I not apply there?), the average guy’s ability to bench-press an 80-pound barbell drops from 23 reps at age 18-25 to 6 reps at age 65-plus. That means the average young man is nearly three times as strong as the typical gray-hair. Indeed, strength declines more precipitously with age than any other fitness component.
Generally, the lower your heart rate during exercise, the stronger your ticker and the fitter you are. In another UNLV experiment, men between the ages of 18 and 25 stepped on and off a foot-high bench for 3 consecutive minutes. Their average heart rate was 102 beats per minute. But when the same test was given to guys age 46 to 55, their average pulse was 113 bpm. The simple act of getting older had eroded about 10 percent of their fitness.
Adults are at their Gumby peaks between ages 18 and 25. At that time, if you sit on the floor with legs extended and reach forward, you’ll generally be able to stretch 16 inches, or about an inch past your toes. But if a 65-year-old guy does the same thing, he’ll only get about 10 inches out (and you’ll probably have to help him up). Nearly half of his flexibility will be gone.
Your Action Plan
Getting depressed? Fighting the urge to Google the Jazzy Power Chair? Don’t sweat it. Although all these changes are happening inside you right now, you can slow, stop or even reverse their progression. That’s something science didn’t fully understand or appreciate even 20 years ago, when it was thought that much of this was irreconcilable. Now we know that with proper training and smart living, anyone can reclaim a good chunk of that 18 to 25 prime time.
For real-life proof of this, consider a study currently being conducted by Athletes’ Performance in Gulf Breeze, Florida. Since January, researchers there have been working with members of the Pensacola Fire Department in an attempt to determine the best way to train “occupational athletes,” or people who must be physically fit to do their jobs. Although the study still has a few months to run, researcher and kinesiologist David Frost says he’s already convinced that the physical effects of aging are surmountable obstacles.
“We’re dealing with firefighters from age 20 to 57,” he explains. “Initially, some of the older guys were hesitant about getting involved and training hard for 12 weeks. They didn’t think they were as strong, as flexible or as cardiovascularly fit as the younger, more ripped guys. And they were afraid of getting injured. But now they can do everything the younger guys can. It was just their confidence that was holding them back. They didn’t even require more rest.”
Frost hopes that recreational athletes will eventually shift from narrow, sports-specific training to a much broader style of conditioning, like the type of movement workouts Athletes’ Performance advocates. Instead of limiting your training to your preferred sport, be it running, strength training, softball or triathlons, he says the key to lifelong fitness is broadening your mindset. “Instead of training for a sport, train for life,” he says. “Instead of going to the gym to get a great workout, work out so you can enjoy a great life.”
For the specifics of how to do this, watch for my next blog, “The Age-Defying Workout.” Among others, I’ll be talking to strength-and-conditioning coach, Ken Croner, of Athletes’ Performance, who worked with ageless Packer and Jet vet, Brett Favre.