Home Posts tagged "Workout Program" (Page 2)

Weight Loss and Distance Running

It's that time of year in Boston.  The "shufflers" are out in full effect. For those of you who aren't familiar with a "shuffler," it's an individual who has recently taken up distance running as a means of losing weight.  As the weather gets nicer and the Boston Marathon rapidly approaches, you can spot shufflers out in droves all over Boston.  They shuffle for a number of reasons: 1. They believe that shuffling at 2.5mph is actually more effective than walking at 2.5mph. 2. Usually, they're about 80% of the way through the marathon training programs that were provided to them, and as a result, most are suffering from IT band problems, plantar fasciitis, Achilles and patellar tendinosis, sciatica, and a serious case of "whatthehellwasithinkingsigningupforthis-itis." 3. Because they never learned to sprint, they run with zero hip flexion (check out Newsletter 77: Sprinting for Health for details). 4. They are simply trying to finish their exercise in the most efficient way possible.  In other words, complete the task with as little discomfort as possible. And here, we have the problem.  Sally takes up running because she thinks she'll lose some body fat.  And, initially, she does lose weight because - to quote Alwyn Cosgrove - it's a "metabolic disturbance" compared to doing nothing.  Moving burns more calories than not moving. However, over time, that activity injures Sally and fosters bad movement patterns, meaning that she'll miss more exercise sessions down the road.  And, she quickly starts searching for the most efficient means of completing her runs, so her body gets more and more efficient - meaning that it burns fewer calories to accomplish the same task.  Whether it is three miles or 13 miles, it's always about just finishing.  Quantity always takes precedence over quality. With March Madness upon us, pretend you're watching a basketball game where you have two teams: Team A wants to win, and Team B wants to simply get through the 40 minutes of the game.  Team A dives for loose balls, full-court presses, and hits the boards hard.  Team B watches the clock.  Who burns more calories?  Team A, no doubt - because they get lost in their performance. Back in college, did you learn more in the graded courses, or the ones that were simply pass-fail?  And, as I asked in Maximum Strength, do you get stronger when you "train" or "work out?" This, to me, is one more reason why interval training outperforms steady-state cardio on top of all the other reasons (e.g., excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, reduction of overuse injuries) that we already know.  There is not a single effective exercise modality out there in a non-beginner population that works simply because one shows up and finishes.  The outstanding success loads of folks have had with Warpspeed Fat Loss is a perfect example; Cosgrove and Mike Roussell challenged them to be just a little bit better at each successive training session - either with loading or number of sets completed.

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If you are going to distance-run (and aren't a competitive endurance athlete), focus on going faster, not fine-tuning the art of pacing yourself when grandmothers are passing you with their walkers.  Pacing yourself doesn't even work at all-you-can-eat buffets; everyone knows you get full too fast and never live up to your gluttony potential.  And, as I always say, if it doesn't fly at all-you-can-eat buffets, it just ain't right. If you're going to interval train, your goal is to go faster each time.  More watts, more steps in a given time period, more ghastly stares from the lady reading a magazine on the leg press, whatever.  Mike Boyle had some great thoughts on this front in a recent submission HERE.  As long as it is quantifiable and you're busting your hump to compete against your previous best, I'm happy. I like the idea of camaraderie and/or competition with others in interval training, too. For example, our staff did this 16-yard x 16-trip sled medley three Thursdays in a row - and each time, it was a little faster (meaning that we had fewer rest periods between sets):

Later in the week, I'll be back with more thoughts to keep this headed in the right direction. New Blog Content Random Friday Thoughts Barefoot Training Guidelines Big Bench to Bigger Bench Stuff You Should Read All the Best, EC

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

You might find it weird that I'm playing this song on March 16.

Then again, if you really know me, you know exactly what I mean.  Yes, folks, it's the first day of the high school baseball season.  Loads of great kids busted their humps with us this off-season, and now we get to go out and watch them perform.  I'm also excited to take a few road trips to catch our pro guys in action.  I love it.

Meanwhile, we've been getting more and more variety around Cressey Performance.  While about 74% of our clients are baseball players, and we always had people from different disciplines, we've been getting a lot more hockey, football, basketball, and endurance athletes, plus adult fitness clients.  I love being a "baseball guy," but variety is always great, too.

We've had a good run of weather in the Boston area, too.  Anytime you can get temperatures over 60 degrees F in Boston before St. Patrick's Day, you've got to consider yourself pretty lucky.  A few of us have been sprinting stadiums over at Soldiers Field at Harvard for the past few weekends, and the weather's been really cooperative.

I also get to travel a fair amount this time of year for seminars.  And, while I am not fond of sitting in airports, I love interacting with fitness professionals and strength and conditioning coaches at these events.  Everyone has a unique story to tell, and I enjoy getting questions that push me to be better at what I do.  It's also a great chance to catch up with great friends and colleagues across the country who I may only see 2-3 times per year.

It's also an extremely productive time for me as a writer.  My days at the facility start a bit later now, so I can focus a bit more on writing.  And, when I write at night, I know I can always listen to the online broadcast of one of our pro baseball guys playing anywhere from Portland, Oregon to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  If you have particular topics you'd like covered in blogs, newsletters, or articles, by all means, please offer some suggestions in the comments section below.  I've already got a new product in the works.

And, perhaps most significantly, this time of year is when I make my best gains in the gym.   It's just my nature to put all our athletes' needs way ahead of my own, and that usually manifests itself in the form of achy knees from spending long hours on the hard floor at CP. I've also been sick twice this winter, which is unheard of for me; I never get sick.  In fact, I lost my voice for both Friday and Saturday and was practically coaching in Morse code and "thumbs-up/thumbs-down" signs.  I'm feeling better now, though.

As a result, my training frequency and volume isn't as high during the baseball off-season, but once things get going in March-May, we ramp it up.  Later this morning, I'm headed over to get a massage to get the ball rolling.

So, if you don't have anything to smile about today, just smile on my behalf!

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Random Friday Thoughts: 3/13/09

With today being Friday the 13th, I figured we'd roll with that theme for today.  As you probably know, Friday the 13th is - according to superstition - a day of bad or good luck.  Honestly, I didn't know that good luck was a feasible outcome until I just Googled it, but apparently it is, and I'm just a stupid pessimist without even knowing it.  So, in hopes of turning my day around, I'm going to post this video and make all the villagers rejoice because they know they're smarter than this girl:

2. Did you know that there is actually a term - paraskavedekatriaphobia - for the fear of Friday the 13th? Apparently, this problem is a more specialized form of triskaidekaphobia, which is just fear of the number 13.  Fortunately, though, these phobias aren't nearly as bad as:

a. Logophobia - fear of words (reading this blog would really suck for those folks, huh?)

b. Electrophobia - fear of electricity (turning on the computer would must have been terrible, but missing out on my electric sense of humor must have been the worst!)

c. Arithmophobibia - fear of numbers (you'll be happy to note that I'm using a, b, c, and d instead of a numerical listing scheme because I am sensitive to your concerns)

d. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia - fear of long words (coincidentally, they gave this guy a syndrome with 36 letters)

A few other honorable mentions to to levophobia (fear of objects to the left of the body), geniophobia (fear of chins), chronomentrophobia (fear of clocks), and Gentilcorophobia (fear of painfully bad techno music).

3. Yesterday, I gave a guest lecture/hands-on session for an exercise science class at UMASS-Boston.  I've done this several semesters in a row, and this semester's topic was "Core Stability and Mobility."  While I think that folks like me who have been in the trenches for a while and attend a lot of seminars need another presentation on core stability like I need a whole in the head, it was cool to speak about the topic to a younger audience that didn't have as much experience under their belts.  One book I encouraged all of them to pick up was Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance by Stuart McGill.

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4. Along those lines, one movement I find us using around the facility quite a bit is the split-stance cable lift:

5. Mike Robertson's just begun doing a podcast component in his newsletters, and it allows him to cover more material than he would with writing along.  Check out the first installment HERE; I think you'll like it.

6. About two years ago, I was featured on the front page of the Boston Globe in a picture with Steph Holland-Brodney, CP's most tenured client, as she prepared for the Boston Marathon.  Almost immediately, I was thrown into a world of international fame  as "the dude with the hard nipple" - and I added to the already-insane media frenzy by authoring a literary masterpiece known as The School of Hard Nipples.  For weeks, I couldn't even go grocery shopping without being swarmped by paparazzi and adoring fans who couldn't wait to catch a glimpse of the nipple that had changed so many lives.

Fortunately, Boston won the World Series in 2007 about six months later, and it was about the same time that "The Departed" came out to put Boston in the spotlight.  So, thanks to the Red Sox and Marky Mark, some of the pressure was lifted - and I managed to move forward.

As I learned this week, though, the stardom hasn't died down altogether.  You see, when I check my website stats, I can find out what people most frequently type in with search engines when they ultimately come to EricCressey.com.  And, would you believe that I average about 3.5 "hard nipples" searches per day?  In other words, random people are typing "hard nipples" into Google, and in many cases, they're winding up at EricCressey.com instead of many of the millions of adult entertainment sites out there.

I guess I'm just a hard-nippled legend.

Have a great weekend!

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Off-Ice Performance Training for Hockey

Cressey Performance was lucky to have Kevin Neeld around the facility last summer, and all our coaches were much better off thanks to this experience.  Kevin always makes some great points and is never afraid to question the norm - and do a ton of research.  Kevin's specialty is hockey, and he recently introduced an Off-Ice Performance Training E-Manual for hockey players and coaches that is absolutely fantastic.  I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy, and it was so good that I couldn't wait to get an interview with him up here at EricCressey.com.  So, without further ado, here it is. EC: I'll be the first to admit that if I see another seminar presentation or article on "core training," I'm going to lose my lunch.  Interestingly, though (and to be blunt), yours in this product doesn't suck.  In other words, there is a lot to be learned both specific to hockey and in a general sense.  Can you explain for my readers in a bit of detail? KN: Sure thing.  In my experience, the reason core training is so poorly practiced is because people don't understand what muscles are involved in the core and what their collective function is.  Beyond the rectus abdominis ("6-pack" muscles) and the external and internal obliques, the core encompasses over a dozen other muscles that attach to the hips, rib cage, and spine.  Collectively, these muscles serves a few major, inter-related functions: 1) Control movement of the hips; 2) provide a stable base for leg and arm movement; and 3) create stiffness for efficient force transfer between the upper and lower body. My approach to core training is pretty straight forward: 1) Teach athletes awareness-what core stability is and feels like; 2) Train for core stability; 3) Progress to dynamic stability (stability challenged by internal or external forces); 4) Progress to training core stiffness and force transfer; 5) Combine force transfer and dynamic stability into one exercise. The progressions are explained in more detail in the course, but to give you an idea of what that looks like: 1) Abdominal draw-ins (for awareness, NOT transversus abdominis isolation...which is a stupid concept), and simply having the athlete put their hands over their stomach, fill their belly up with air, squeeze their core and continue to breathe. 2) Planks and bridges 3) Planks and bridges with partner perturbations 4) Medicine ball throws, tosses, and slams 5) Combined med ball exercises with holds in various positions challenged by a partner perturbation I hope that all makes sense.  The course doesn't go into full detail on medicine ball exercises because I really wanted to make the exercises and progressions realistic for a team setting, and typically there isn't a lot of equipment available. EC: Along these same lines, what are the specific injury issues that you prioritize in this e-manual? KN: Hockey players are plagued by hip and lower abdominal injuries.  What's scary is that the true causes and predisposing risk factors to these injuries are only starting to be explored in the research community.  Usually, creating an appropriate balance within and between the hip and core musculature can prevent these injuries.  For example, if you have a strength imbalance between the muscles on the outside and inside of your hip, your risk of adductor (commonly referred to as the "groin") strain increases.  If you have a strength imbalance between your adductors and your anterior abdominal musculature, your risk of lower abdominal injury increases.  As with most injuries, the key is creating a balance. As a quick note, creating balance often means utilizing unbalanced training.  Your readers may know this already since you talk about the same things with your baseball guys.  Hockey players take several dozens shots every week.  These shots usually involve forceful rotation in the same direction.  The best way to create balance would be to use an unbalanced training program with more rotation or anti-rotation exercises in the direction OPPOSITE to that in which they shoot.  This is where sport-specific training really threw people off.  Training "sport-specific" patterns again and again off the ice is likely to increase injury risk, not performance. Getting back to hip and lower abdominal injuries...Typically these injuries are a result of under-preparation or overuse, both of which can be addressed with similar training methods.  I first implemented some of the dynamic warm-up and core training exercises outlined in the course with the University of Delaware Men's Ice Hockey Team in 2006.  We had ZERO pre-season hip flexor or "groin" injuries.  Not a single player missed a single practice or game.  I've refined a lot of things since then, but a lot of the concepts are still the same.  Warm-up appropriately by improving range of motion around the right joints and activating the right muscles, and train the core for its true function, and you'll likely avoid these injuries. EC: Hockey players, like all athletes, have loads of competing demands - from on-ice technical work, to energy systems training, to resistance training, to flexibility training.  This manual does a great job of integrating all these features.  Where do you feel that most people make the biggest mistakes in this regard? KN: It really depends on the team, but the three things that seem to come up most often are: 1) The training of most youth programs involves a couple laps around the rink, a long stretch, maybe some jumping, push-ups and sit-ups.  These programs leave out a lot of important forms of training (e.g. dynamic flexibility, core stability, reactive agility, acceleration/deceleration, etc.). 2) Conditioning is still horribly misunderstood.  The idea that hockey players need to train for a well-developed "aerobic system" by going for long runs is pretty ridiculous.  We're talking about a sport that typically involves 30-45 second shifts, followed by several minutes of rest.  Within each shift, there are typically a few bouts of 3-5 second all out efforts, followed by periods of gliding, and usually a stoppage or two.  This breaks down into something like 20 seconds of high intensity effort every five minutes.  Repeated 20-minute jogs around the rink will make you well-conditioned for the wrong sport. 3) The largest problem I see in team settings is a complete disregard for the QUALITY of movement.  Hockey players and coaches are very driven, which usually means they want more, not better.  The first thing I do when working with a new team is sit them all down and tell them that focus will be placed on quality of movement before intensity or quantity of movement.  Moving the wrong way, at a high intensity or volume, will only make bad patterns worse.  I made a strong effort in the course to emphasize proper movement and technique and provide simple coaching cues so that people without a background in sport biomechanics can still move the right way. EC: A large percentage of the folks reading this resource are going to be high school athletes and coaches - many of whom play multiple sports.  What pieces of advice do you have for these folks?  How can they make the most of this training when they've got other sports on top of the competing demands we discussed above? KN: My advice: Keep playing multiple sports.  Early specialization (only playing hockey from a young age) will have detrimental effects on your development and movement quality as you get older.  Typically these are the players that dominate when they're 12-14, then drop off the map or are plagued by injuries at 20. To get to the heart of your question, good training is good training.  The course outlines quality training in the context of hockey, but the principles are mostly the same for all sports.  A strong, functional core will improve performance in all sports.  Training to improve acceleration, and your ability to rapidly decelerate and change direction explosively will improve performance in all sports.  I use many of the same dynamic warm-up progressions for hockey players as I do for athletes in all other sports (rowing, soccer, football, basketball, lacrosse, etc.).  All team-sport athletes need to be mobile, stable, strong, explosive, and quick.  I honestly can't think of a sport that wouldn't benefit from the training outlined in the course, which details how to alter the intensity and volume of your training in preparation for more important games (which becomes an increasingly important concept for athletes playing multiple sports at the same time). EC: Thanks for taking the time, Kevin.  Great points - and definitely a great resource, too. For more information on Kevin's Off-Ice Performance Training Course, head over to HockeyTrainingU.com.

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Stuff You Should Read: 3/11/09

Here is this week's list of recommended reading: The Mainstream Media Lag - Here's an old blog post with an enduring theme. An EricCressey.com Exclusive Interview with Dr. Jason Hodges - This interview includes a lot of really interesting thoughts from an openminded and forward-thinking radiologist.  I guarantee you'll learn something new - whether it's about shoulders, knees, or just being an informed consumer. Go Barefoot, Get Stronger - This article included a lot of quotes and perspectives from Martin Rooney, who is one of the initial "pioneers" of barefoot training.  We do a lot of barefoot work, and it's absolutely fantastic.
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Static Posture Assessment Mistakes: Part 1

One of the big mistakes many people make in assessing static postures is that they think they can determine that the humerii are internally rotated just from looking at someone from in front, and seeing the tops of their hands (as opposed to the thumb-side, which would be more neutral).  So, in these folks' minds, this individual would need to stretch more into external rotation:

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In reality, this individual is a professional pitcher and actually has far more external rotation (roughly 130 degrees on his throwing side) than ordinary folks.  Stretching him into external rotation could actually cause injury.

So, why are his palms turned backward like that?  Well, it's very simple: his scapulae are abducted, or winged.  When the scapular stabilizers - particularly the serratus anterior and lower trapezius are weak - the shoulder blades sit further out to the sides.  The humerii are in normal, but their "foundation" (the scapulae) have been moved.

For more information on optimal assessment techniques, check out Assess and Correct.

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Repetition and The Art of the Deload

Last week, my girlfriend had a big decision to make.  As she finishes med school (optometry) this year, she had two offers on her plate: one for a job in a private practice, and one for a one-year residency.  If she took the job, it meant we'd move out of the city.  Instead, she took the residency - which means that we can stay in our current apartment for another year once our current lease is up on August 15. Now, this might seem mundane to a lot of you, but not for me.  I'm a guy who has moved eight times in the past ten years - including three separate states.  I was 100% supportive of any avenue that she opted to choose, but I had made it clear that if we went anywhere, we were getting a moving company to do it.  After ten years of moving, I was sick of putting my life on hold for 3-4 days at a time to relocate.  It made me think of a quote I read over at T-Nation a few years back: "Stagnancy is often confused with stability." In the strength and conditioning world, status quo is largely understood to be unacceptable.  We always have to be looking to get better.  Maybe a basketball player is looking to push work capacity by perpetually increasing training volume on the court.  Powerlifters rotate max effort exercises each week.  And, bodybuilders may constantly changing programs in hopes of keeping muscles "confused" and growing. However, in the world of "Eric Cressey hates moving more than he hates drunk Yankees fans in center field at Fenway Park," stagnancy is a beautiful thing. This stagnancy in living arrangements gives me stability with my schedule and productivity - so I guess the quote from above isn't always accurate.  And, it makes me think about a few examples from the world of exercise where stagnancy can be a good thing: 1. Activation Drills: I often get asked how to make a scap push-up, scapular wall slide, or other mobility/activation drill harder.  The truth is that you really shouldn't be trying to make them much harder; they're just low-intensity drills designed to be done with perfect technique to get certain muscles "turned on" before you get to the more complex stuff.  So, if you want to make these movements harder, do a bench press or loaded push-up after the scap push-up, or a chin-up after the scapular wall slide (just a few examples). 2. Learning New Movement Patterns: It actually takes a lot more repetitions to ingrain something in your "movement memory" than you might think.  In fact, research has shown that elite athletes have practiced their specific skills over 100,000 times to make them "subconsciously" learned. Let's be clear: I'm not saying that you have to do 100,000 body weight lunges before you can start to load the movement and derive benefit from that training in other tasks.  However, for untrained folks and those returning from injuries, motor (re-)education takes repetition and time.  You can't expect a 16-year old girl to have an ACL reconstruction, then do a session of body weight lunges and be ready to go out and play soccer or basketball safely the next day.  In fact, in this example, "stagnancy" - or consistency in training and gradual progressions - truly does enhance stability in more ways than one. 3. The Biggest Loser - When this TV show is on, it is best for you to leave your remote stagnant on the coffee table and your TV turned off.  This will ensure that ratings go down for NBC and this mind-numbing crap will eventually get yanked off the air. 4. In-Season Athletes - As I wrote in Four Ways to Stay on Track, you have to be very careful with modifying things too aggressively with athletes who are in the middle of their competitive season.  New exercises can bring about delayed onset muscle soreness, which may interfere with performance.  And, increasing training volume and/or loads in-season can inhibit recovery between practice sessions and competition, or lead to overuse injury. 5. Deload Phases - I devoted an entire e-book, The Art of the Deload, to this topic, in fact.  Make no mistake about it: the overwhelming majority of your time in the gym should be focused on getting better.  However, there should always be deloading periods in your training where it's okay to intentionally be "stagnant," as these periods give rise to adaptation that make you better in the long-term.

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These five examples are really just the tip of the iceberg.  Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below to add to the discussion for everyone's benefit. New Articles The Seven Habits of Highly Defective Benchers was published at T-Nation last week. A Day in the Life of Eric Cressey was published at Precision Nutrition two weeks ago. Blog Updates Random Friday Thoughts Peak Power or Vertical Jump? The Most Detailed Maximum Strength Feedback To-Date Stuff You Should Read Have a great week! EC
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Interval Training: HIIT or Miss

Today, we've got a special guest post from Michael Boyle of StrengthCoach.com.  This is some fantastic stuff - definitely one of the most comprehensive articles I've seen on the topic of interval training

Interval Training- HIIT or Miss?

I think every fat loss article we read espouses the value of interval training for fat loss. In fact the term HIIT (for High Intensity Interval Training) is thrown around so much that many people just assume they know what it is. However, among all the recommendations I see to perform HIIT, very few articles contain any practical information as to what to do or how to do it. I have to confess that I stumbled into this area somewhat accidentally. Two different processes converged to make me understand that I might be a fat loss expert and not know it. In my normal process of professional reading I read both Alwyn Cosgrove's Afterburn and Craig Ballantyne's Turbulence Training. What struck me immediately was that what these experts were recommending for fat loss looked remarkably like the programs we used for conditioning. At the time I was reading these programs, I was also training members of the U.S. Women's Olympic Ice Hockey team. It seemed all of the female athletes I worked with attempted to use steady state cardio work as a weight loss or weight maintenance vehicle. I was diametrically opposed to this idea as I felt that steady state cardiovascular work undermined the strength and power work we were doing in the weight room. My policy became "intervals only" if you wanted to do extra work. I did not do this as a fat loss strategy but rather as a "slowness prevention" strategy. However, a funny thing happened. The female athletes that we prevented from doing steady state cardiovascular work also began to get remarkably leaner. I was not bright enough to put two and two together until I read the above-mentioned manuals and realized that I was doing exactly what the fat loss experts recommended. We were on a vigorous strength program and we were doing lots of intervals. With that said, the focus of this article will be not "why," as we have already heard the "why" over and over, but "how." How do I actually perform HIIT? To begin, we need to understand exactly what interval training is? In the simplest sense, interval training is nothing more than a method of exercise that uses alternating periods of work and rest. The complicated part of interval training may be figuring out how to use it.  How much work do I do? How hard should I do it? How long should I rest before I do it again? Interval training has been around for decades. However, only recently have fitness enthusiasts around the world been awakened to the value. The recent popularity of interval training has even given it a new name in the literature. Interval training is often referred to as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and it is now the darling of the fat loss and conditioning worlds. Truth is, you can also do low intensity interval training. In fact most people should not start with HIIT but LIIT. HIIT may make you vomit if you don't work into it. Research Background In case you have been in a cave for the last decade let's quickly review some research. A recent study, done in Canada at McMaster University and often referenced as the Gibala Study after lead researcher Martin Gibala, compared 20 minutes of high intensity interval training, consisting of a 30 second sprint followed by a four minute rest, with 90 to 120 minutes in the target heart rate zone. The result was amazing. Subjects got the same improvement in oxygen utilization from both programs. What is more amazing is that the 20 minute program only requires about two minutes and 30 seconds of actual work. A second study that has become known as the Tabata study again shows the extreme benefits of interval training. Tabata compared moderate intensity endurance training at about 70 percent of VO2 max to high intensity intervals done at 170 percent of VO2 max. Tabata used a unique protocol of 20 seconds work to 10 seconds rest done in seven to eight bouts. This was basically a series of 20 second intervals performed during a four-minute span. Again, the results were nothing short of amazing. The 20/10 protocol improved the VO2 max and the anaerobic capabilities more than the steady state program. Further evidence for the superiority of higher intensity work can be found in the September/October 2006 issue of the ACSM Journal. Dr. David Swain stated "running burns twice as many calories as walking." This is great news for those who want to lose body fat. I am not a running advocate, but we can put to rest another high intensity (running) versus low intensity (walking) debate. Do the math. Swain states that a 136-pound person walking will burn 50 cal/mile and proportionally more as the subject's weight increases. In other words, a 163-pound person would weigh 20 percent more and, as a result, burn 20 percent more calories. This means that expenditure goes from 50 to 60 calories, also a 20 percent increase. Swain goes on to state that running at seven mph burns twice as many calories as walking at four mph. This means a runner would burn 100 calories in roughly eight and one half minutes or about 11 calories a minute. The walker at four miles per hour would burn 50 calories in 15 minutes (the time it would take to walk a mile at four MPH). That's less than four calories per minute of exercise. Please understand that this is less a testament for running and more a testament for high intensity work versus low intensity work. More intensity equals greater expenditure per minute. Interval Training Methods There are two primary ways to performing interval training. The first is the conventional Work-to-Rest method. This is the tried and true method most people are familiar with. The Work-to-Rest method uses a set time interval for the work period and a set time interval for the rest period. Ratios are determined, and the athlete or client rests for generally one, two or three times the length of the work interval before repeating the next bout. The big drawback to the Work to Rest method is that time is arbitrary. We have no idea what is actually happening inside the body. We simply guess. In fact, for many years, we have always guessed, as we had no other "measuring stick." Heart Rate Method With the mass production of low cost heart rate monitors, we are no longer required to guess. The future of interval training lies with accurate, low cost heart rate monitors. We are no longer looking at time as a measure of recovery, as we formerly did in our work-to-rest ratios. We are now looking at physiology. What is important to understand is that heart rate and intensity are closely related. Although heart rate is not a direct and flawless measure of either intensity or recovery status, it is far better than simply choosing a time interval to rest. To use the heart rate method, simply choose an appropriate recovery heart rate. In our case, we use 60 percent of theoretical max heart rate. After a work interval of a predetermined time or distance is completed, the recovery is simply set by the time it takes to return to the recovery heart rate. When using HR response, the whole picture changes. Initial recovery in well-conditioned athletes and clients is often rapid and shorter than initially thought. In fact, rest to work ratios may be less than 1-1 in the initial few intervals. An example of a sample workout using the heart rate method for a well-conditioned athlete or client is show below.
  • Interval 1 - Work 60 sec rest 45 sec
  • Interval 2 - Work 60 sec rest 60 sec
  • Interval 3 - Work 60 sec rest 75 sec
  • Interval 4 - Work 60 sec rest 90 sec
*In a conventional 2-1, time based program the rest period would have been too long for the first three intervals, rendering them potentially less effective. The reverse may be true in a de-conditioned athlete or client. I have seen young, de-conditioned athletes need rest up to eight times as long as the work interval. In fact, we have seen athletes who need two minutes rest after a 15 second interval. In the heartrate method the rest times gradually get longer. Th first interval is 1-.75 while the last interval is 1 to 1.5, The Problem with Formulas At least 70 percent of the population does not fit into our age-old theoretical formulas. The 220 minus age formula is flawed on two key points: it doesn't fit a significant portion of the population, and it is not based on research. Even the developer of the now-famous formula admits that his thoughts were taken out of context. The more accurate method is called the Heart Rate Reserve Method or Karvonen formula. Karvonen Formula (Max HR- Resting HR) x %+ RHR= THR Ex- (200-60) x.8 +60 = 172 The key to the Karvonen formula is that it looks at larger measures of fitness by incorporating the resting heart rate and is therefore less arbitrary. However, the two twenty minus age formula will suffice for establishing recovery heart rates. Interval Training Basics The longer the interval, the shorter the rest period as a percentage of the interval. In other words, short intervals have a high muscular demand and will require longer rests when viewed as a percentage of the interval. Fifteen second intervals will need at least a 2-1 rest to work ration. Three to one will work better for beginners. Interval Rest Recommendations (Work-to-Rest Based) - 15 sec. Beginners at least 45 sec (3-1), more advanced 30 sec (2-1) - 30 sec. Rest 1:00 to 1:30 (3-1 or 2-1) - 1:00. Rest 1:00- 2:00 (2-1 or 1-1) Just remember, as the intervals get longer, the recovery time, as it relates to the interval, may not need to be as long. In other words, a fifteen second sprint may require 30-45 seconds rest but a two minute interval may only need to be followed by a two minute rest. Aerobic Intervals? The biggest benefit of interval training is that you can get a tremendous aerobic workout without the boredom of long steady state bouts of exercises. In fact as the Gibala study demonstrated, you can get superior benefits for both fitness and fat loss by incorporating interval training. If the heart rate is maintained above the theoretical 60 percent threshold proposed for aerobic training, then the entire session is both aerobic and anaerobic. This is why my athletes do almost no "conventional" aerobic training. All of our aerobic work is a by-product of our anaerobic work. My athletes or clients can get their heart rate in the recommended aerobic range for 15 to 20 minutes, yet in some cases, they do only three to five minutes of actual work. Modes of Interval Training Although most people visualize interval training as a track and field concept, our preferred method of interval training is the stationary bike. Although I think running is the theoretical "best" mode of training, the facts are clear. Most Americans are not fit enough to run. In fact, statistics estimate that 60 percent of those who begin a running program will be injured. In a fitness or personal training setting, that is entirely unacceptable. Females, based on the genetics of the female body (wider hips, narrower knees) are at potentially even greater risk. Physical therapist Diane Lee says it best in her statement, "You can't run to get fit. You need to be fit to run." Interval training can be done on any piece of equipment. However, the most expeditious choice in my opinion will be a dual action bike like the Schwinn AirDyne. The bike allows, in the words of performance enhancement expert Alwyn Cosgrove, "maximum metabolic disturbance with minimal muscular disruption." In other words, you can work really hard and not injure yourself on a stationary bike.

airdyne

Fit individuals can choose any mode they like. However, the bike is the best and safest choice. In my mind, the worst choice might be the elliptical trainers. Charles Staley, another noted training expert, has a concept I believe he calls the 180 Principle. Staley advocates doing exactly the opposite of what you see everyone else in the gym doing. I'm in agreement. Walking on a treadmill and using an elliptical trainer seem to be the two most popular modes of training in a gym. My conclusion, supported by Staley's 180 Principle, is that neither is of much use. Interval Training Modes in Detail Running
  • Maybe the most effective method but also most likely to cause injury.
  • Shuttle runs (running to a line and back repeatedly) have both high muscular demand (acceleration and deceleration) and high metabolic demand.
  • Running is relative. Running straight ahead for 30 seconds is significantly easier than a 30 second shuttle.
  • Shuttle runs produce more muscular discomfort due to the repeated acceleration and deceleration.
  • Running for the average gym-goers is impractical as a fairly large area is needed.
Treadmill Running
  • A close second to ground based running in both effectiveness and unfortunately injury potential.
  • Getting on and off a moving treadmill is an athletic skill and can result in serious injury. Therefore, treadmill interval running is probably not for the average personal training client.
  • Treadmill speeds are deceiving. For example, 10 MPH is only a six minute mile yet can feel very fast. However, 10 MPH is not a difficult pace for intervals for a well-conditioned athlete.
  • High quality interval treadmills should be able to go to 15 MPH.
  • For treadmill running, first practice the skill of getting on and off the moving treadmill (The author assumes no responsibility for those thrown on the floor attempting this. Do not try this in a normal health club, where the treadmills are packed in like sardines. You must have room to fall off without striking an immovable object).
Additional Treadmill Drawbacks
  • Lack of true active hip extension may under train the hamstrings.
  • In treadmill running, the belt moves, you just stay airborne. Treadmill times do not translate well to running on the ground. This may be due to lack of ground contact time.
Treadmill Recommendations
  • Time based. Try 15 seconds on with 45 seconds off at 7 MPH and 5% incline. For safety, decrease speed and increase incline.
  • Heart rate based (max HR of 200 used for example). Try a 15 second sprint at 7/5 and simply rest until the heart rate returns to 120 beats per minute. Rest is rest, don't walk or jog or your heart rate will lower slowly.
Stationary Bike
  • Dual action bikes like the Airdyne produce a higher HR. This is due to the combined action of the arms and legs. There is no better affordable option than the AirDyne. Although they require periodic maintenance they are the perfect interval tool as they do not need any adjustments to belts or knobs when interval training. The fan is an accommodating resistance device. This means that the harder you push the more resistance you get back. If you have large fan AirDyne, purchase and install windscreens. Most athletes and clients dislike the large fan AirDynes as they are unable to work up a sweat without a windscreen.
  • This is probably the best "safe" tool.
  • Requires limited skill.
  • Limited potential for overuse injury.
Stationary Bike Recommendations
  • Same time recommendations as for the treadmill. For the AirDyne, set the top display to Level. For a well-conditioned male a 15 second sprint should be level 12-15. Do not go all out as this will seriously undermine the ability to repeat additional intervals. Well-conditioned female athletes will be Level 8-10 for 15 seconds. Levels should be adjusted down for fitness level and up for body size. Larger athletes or clients will find the bike easier.  Large fan AirDynes (older models)  will have slightly different work levels than the newer smaller fan models.
Slideboard
  • Slideboards provide the best "bang for the buck" after the AirDyne. However, in a fitness setting there is a skill requirement. Clients must be warned that they may fall and potentially be injured. This may sound stupid but be sure to inform the client that the board is slippery. I can't tell you how many clients have stepped on a slideboard and remarked "this is slippery". Remember what they say about assuming.
  • The slideboard provides added the benefits of a standing position and getting hip ab and adductor work.
  • Slideboards are also great for groups. No adjustment are needed, you just need extra booties. We order 4 pair for every board.
  • Safe in spite of "experts." Some so-called experts have questioned the effect of the slideboard on the knees; however, there is nothing more than the anecdotal evidence of a few writers to support this theory.
Climbers and Ellipticals
  • The key to using any climbing device is to keep the hands and arms off of the equipment. This is critical. Just put a heart rate monitor on and keep the hands of and watch the heart rate skyrocket. If clients complain about lack of balance, slow down the machine and develop the balance, but don't allow them to hold on.
  • The StepMill is the least popular, and as Staley points out, the most effective. Think 180 again. If it's popular, it's probably not good.
  • Conventional Stairclimbers are easier to abuse than the StepMill. Many users ramp up the speed while allowing the arms to do the majority of the work. As we mentioned before, keep your hands off the rails.
  • The elliptical machine is most popular because it is easiest. This is nothing more than human nature at work. Discourage your clients from using an elliptical trainer. If they insist, let them do it on their off days.
Research continues to mount that interval training may improve fitness better than steady state work. The big key is not what to do any more but, how to do it. For maximum effect, get a heart rate monitor and go to work. One warning. Deconditioned clients may need three weeks to a month of steady work to get ready to do intervals. This is OK. Don't kill a beginner with interval training. Begin with a quality strength program and some steady state cardiovascular work. The only good use for steady state work in my mind is preparing an athlete or client for the intervals to come. References:
  1. Resistance Exercise Reverses Aging in Human Skeletal Muscle." Simon Melov, Mark Tarnopolsky, Kenneth Beckman, Krysta Felkey and Alan Hubbard PLoS ONE 2(5): e465. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.
  2. "Short Term Sprint Interval Versus Traditional Endurance Training: Similar Initial Adaptations in Human Skeletal Muscle and Exercise Performance Journal of Physiology Sept 2006, Vol 575 Issue 3.
  3. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, Hirai Y, Ogita F, Miyachi M, Yamamoto K. Department of Physiology and Biomechanics, National Institute of Fitness and Sports, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.
  4. September/October ACSM Health and Fitness Journal. Dr. David Swain Moderate or Vigorous Intensity Exercise: What Should We Prescribe?
Michael is a Boston-based strength and conditioning coach and the editor of StrengthCoach.com. You can purchase Mike's products through Perform Better. The above article is based on the best-selling Interval Training DVD filmed  in 2007.
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Random Friday Thoughts: 3/6/09

1. Last weekend, my girlfriend and I headed down to Florida for a quick three-day escape to warm weather, but today, we'll be shooting up to Southern Maine to visit with my mother's class.  She's a teacher at my old stomping grounds, Kennebunk High School (Go Rams).  I'll be chatting with her students about fascinating topics such as: a. how to make a fried egg without a spatula b. how I became a ninja without ever receiving a degree in ninjalogy from an accredited institution c. why Tony Gentilcore's knee sleeves smell worse than...well...anything d. why they should wear belts and stop turning the brims of their baseball caps off to the side 2. I had a new article published yesterday at T-Nation: Seven Habits of Highly Defective Benchers In reality, this article could have been called "Why Kevin Larrabee has missed a 300-pound bench press 931 times."

And, a second attempt, just because the first one was sooooo close...

Don't worry, Larrabee; you're still my boy.

3. Speaking of writing, I actually got started on a new project this week.  Things quiet down a bit for me during the high school baseball season, so it is when I focus more on seminars, writing, and rescuing kittens from trees.

4. This week's 16x16 sled relay went a lot more smoothly than last week.  In fact, we beat our best time by about 45 seconds.  We've got one more week of this madness, and then we'll find something new for the Thursday insanity.

5. Just a quick note of congratulations to the Lincoln-Sudbury hockey team, whose season came to an end with a tough loss in the state semifinals last night.  Nine guys from the team trained with us last off-season, and these guys deserved all the success that came their way.  Nice job this season, fellas.

Have a great weekend!

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The Seven Habits of Highly Defective Benchers

In my line of work, I get to see a lot of pitching instructors and hitting coaches. Some have the unbelievable ability to really get through to kids and make them great. On the other hand, there are some that flat-out suck. As I've seen these two ends of the spectrum, I've come to realize that the best guy to teach you a curveball is rarely the one who has had a dirty 12-to-6 breaking ball since he was in seventh grade. Rather, the guy that can teach you the most is the one who struggled with his curveball for years and tried everything to even turn it into a mediocre pitch. Continue Reading...
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