Exercise - Fraction of the Time, Triple the Results
Far too many people, including fitness “experts” and healthcare workers are under the impression that popular exercises that emphasize slow, repetitive routines, like jogging and elliptical machines are the best way to achieve weight loss and cardiovascular health. However, the truth is that these plodding, boring exercises are time consuming and can actually produce more harm than benefit. In general these types of high volume, low intensity exercises are a waste of time at best, but in reality often contribute to overtraining syndromes and long term damage.
A far superior approach to exercise is based on the premise of doing low volume and high intensity training. For example, sprint interval training targets cardiovascular health in a fraction of time, without the harmful, cumulative effects of overtraining. A good analogy to explain this concept is by examining the effects of overuse on your car. Inarguably, the best way to maintain a brand new vehicle would be to keep it safely in your garage. But a few times a week, you would go for a ride on the highway- reach fairly high speeds for a short distance and return safely to your garage. If you never took your car out on the road, this lack of use would eventually lead to a slow deterioration of all its moving parts and at some point in time you would have difficulty starting it. Conversely, if you drove your car for hours a day, in a slow sustained, plodding fashion like driving in stop and go traffic, you would evidently wear out all the parts: tires, brakes, engine, and transmission. Now ask yourself, which car will last longer and look and perform the best? The answer is obvious. The car that is used minimally at high speeds (high intensity, low volume) will most definitely sustain its “showroom newness” better than the stop and go, hours each day (high volume, low intensity) vehicle.
What Is an Example of Sprint Interval Training?
Appropriately named, the Grizzly Bear Work Out is a great example of sprint interval training. Imagine you’re being chased by a grizzly bear. Question: How fast would you run? And how long would you run for? Answer: As fast as you can for as long as you can. This is the basis of the Grizzly Bear Workout. After a brief warm up, run as fast as you can for as long as you can maintain your top speed. As soon as you can no longer sprint at full speed, stop and take a break for 2-3 minutes. The sprint part of this wonderful training method should take roughly 30-60 seconds. The key is to go as fast as possible until you can no longer maintain your top speed. Then you rest until you have recovered to a more normal heart rate and breath rate. This rest period will take you about 2-3 minutes. Then you sprint again. On your second, third, maybe even fourth cycle you will notice that you gas out more quickly. And it will be very obvious: breathing hard, heart racing, burning in your legs, maybe even a little nausea and eventually you can’t continue. This is your body telling you that you have reached your end point of this exercise. Any further training will only be harmful. Stop at this point and congratulate yourself for a job well done.
If you cannot run (because of injury, balance problems or extreme obesity), you can work out can be just as effectively on an exercise bike or in a swimming pool, or some other exercise which allows for high intensity, short duration intervals. Maybe you imagine yourself being chased down by a truck on your bicycle or in the pool escaping from a shark.
What’s great about sprint interval training is that the whole exercise will take you no more than 15 minutes, even including your rest periods.
You must understand that high volume training (even at low intensity) can cause over training syndrome and cumulative damage to your muscles, joints, and even your heart. And the whole point of exercise is to maintain health, not cause harm. You can rate your fitness by realizing you run faster, longer, and recover more quickly. The other plus to this type of training is that it is exhilarating to run as fast as you can.
How can I Relate This to Strength Training?
You should also employ a high intensity, low volume approach to strength training. Feel free to use a weight machine, free weights, or resistance bands. The key is for you to maintain even resistance throughout the full range of motion of each exercise. If you don’t complete a full range of motion, a part of your muscle will get stronger while another part will get weaker which can lead to injuries and dysfunction.
After a brief warm up, utilize the same concept of high intensity, low volume by using the heaviest weight in which you can complete a full set without cheating or recruiting other muscle groups. You should complete a minimum of 6 reps; if you can easily do 12-15 then you should choose a heavier weight. Perform each set of exercises until you can’t continue. One set is to muscle fatigue and muscle failure is all you need. Scientific evidence shows you that 85% of benefit you can obtain from resistance training is from one set to muscle failure. Any additional sets are mostly a waste of your time and efforts and can actually contribute to injury and long term muscle breakdown.
If you are obsessed with abdominal exercises because you think this will give you a slimmer waist, than think again. Keep in mind that if you exercise your arms or your legs, you will add muscle and these body parts will actually get bigger. It only makes sense that if you exercise your waist that will get bigger too. Performing a bunch of sit ups is not only time consuming but will also not slim down your midsection. Instead opt for Yoga or Pilates which emphasize elongating your core and waist.
Importance of Rest
Rest may be one, if not the most important aspects of your work out. It’s during rest that your muscles have time to repair, recover, and grow. If you’re working out and you’re still sore from your previous session, then you’re just damaging your body. You should not be working out more than 5 days a week, but even still listen to your body. Let your body tell you when you are ready to work out again. You may need to do certain exercises or work on specific body parts only once or twice each week.
A good example of the consequences of overtraining is marathon runners. You may think of these athletes as the supreme example of a healthy individual. In reality, this is not true. Marathon runners may suffer extravagantly due to their arduous, volume maximized work outs. Years of excessive running can frequently lead to all sorts of problems like degenerative joints and even heart problems. There is a syndrome known as Runner’s heart in which over trained individuals have excessively low heart rates. This slow heart rate (also known as bradycardia) is a consequence of damage to the sympathetic nerves of their hearts. Because the sympathetic nerves are damaged, these over trained individuals experience excessive parasympathetic tone to their heart and this leads to a slow heart rate.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to exercise, you need just enough to get your circulation going and your muscles stimulated. Once you are past that point, any additional exercise will actually cause premature “wear and tear”. Stick with short bursts of high intensity exercise and get plenty of rest.
To learn more about sprint interval training and the damage traditional exercises can have on your body, review Dr. Rothman’s weight-loss videos online.