Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The New Rules of Fitness: Why Working Out Less is More...

You log hundreds of hours in the gym, following a "traditional" routine that alternates between strength and cardio, but you still are unable to achieve the kind of definition you see in the magazines...

Why is it so hard to achieve that dream body? If this sounds familiar, then you're about to discover why your workout may be less effective than you think.

For years experts have maintained that heavy lifting and cardio are the keys to building muscle and reducing body fat, but the latest exercise science is turning conventional wisdom on its head. This flies in the face of the "more-is-better" mantra of fitness.

It's time to learn the new rules of fitness...

Focus on the Work. Quit Worrying About Calories.

Have you ever noticed that long-distance runners come in many shapes and sizes-from skinny to even hefty, but all sprinters tend to be lean and chiseled (even check out the guys & girls pounding the treadmill at your gym.) This flies in the face of the "more-is-better" fitness mantra. Longer workouts (like a marathon run) burn more fat and build more muscle right?

Hear the latest research. Earlier this year a study from the School of Kinesiology at the University of Western Ontario compared the effects of short, intense strength training with those of longer bouts of moderate exercise. Participants were separated into two camps. Members of the first group ran as hard as they could for 30 seconds and then rested for four minutes. They repeated this three to five times for a total workout time of 18 to 27 minutes. The second group ran for up to 60 minutes at 65 percent of maximum capacity (think moderate-paced jogging). Both groups ran three times per week for six weeks. 

Despite exercising for a much shorter time, those in the sprint group saw their total body fat decrease by 12.4 percent, while the other runners lost less than half that much. 

In 2007, researchers from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, produced similar results. Participants who did eight-second sprints on a bike followed by 12-second rests for 20 minutes three times a week for 15 weeks lost an average of 5.5 pounds of fat. Those who cycled at a slower, steady pace for 40 minutes actually gained, on average, a pound. 

So why do shorter, intense workouts boost fat loss?

Rocky Reeves (Rock Hard Fitness, Anchorage, AK) says it is about what happens inside the body post workout. Sprints or intense running (while cardio in nature)-tear down muscle because you're taking your body through new thresholds (upper limits). The body requires extra metabolic processes to repair and strengthen itself. You will continue to burn calories (and fat) for days (typically 40-48 hours) after your workout. Those who like to jog for 45-60 minutes (steady state) return to their normal calorie-burning state almost immediately after they've finished exercising. It's the same reason your muscles almost never get sore after a moderate hike (if you hike a lot). You need to challenge your body more!

Increase Your Intensity. Start Exercising Less.

Rock Hard Fitness (RHF) has replaced hour-long boring workouts with short, intense classes that focus on full-body movements (hybrids, combos)-like squats with presses-to quickly fatigue the entire body. RHF Burn30 Bootcamp sessions never last more than 30 minutes, and researchers from Ohio University back up his new way of doing things. The scientists had young men perform four rounds of bench presses, power cleans, and squats. The participants were told to lift enough weight so that they burned out at about 10 reps during each set. It amounted to a 30-minute workout, but when tested several days later, the men continued to burn fat and build muscle much faster than they had before the routine. 

The problem with a lot of workouts is that the focus is placed on total time spent at the gym instead of on the intensity of the sessions. This means the longer people exercise, the more they "pace" themselves and the less intense the overall workout becomes. 

I like to say "intensity beats extensity."

Force Muscle Fatigue. Push Yourself to Failure.

The amount of weight lifted is less important than how hard the client pushes and how many times they are forced to rest because of absolute muscle fatigue. The only way RHF can elicit that kind of intensity from clients is to cut their workouts from an hour to 30 minutes (by cutting rest time). 

People rarely achieve maximum potential when they "pace" through a workout. The goal in most sessions is to quickly get the body to burn out so you have to rest. Since deciding to implement the 30 minute boot camp sessions RHF has witnessed tremendous change in member's bodies and motivation. Members feel they can really push because the workout is over in 30 minutes. 

Knowing this keeps them mentally and physically engaged, which helps drive intensity. They also receive immediate feedback from their bodies due to the muscle pump and spike in energy and endorphins. They are addicted to these sweat sessions!

Mix Strength and Cardio. Forget Traditional Cardio.

Ever wondered why elliptical machines (and stair climbers and treadmills . . .) are often full of people who are overweight? Apparently, the most monotonous exercises are also the ones least likely to build muscle-and might even do the opposite.

Researchers at West Virginia University wanted to see how two different routines, plus a very-low-calorie diet, would affect weight loss. One group of participants engaged in resistance training on weight machines that progressed from one to four sets of up to 12 exercises three times per week. The second group performed 50 to 60 minutes of walking, stair climbing, or biking four times per week.

At the end of the 12-week study, the aerobic group had lost 19.4 percent of total body weight, while the strength group had lost 14.7 percent.

But when body-composition measurements were taken, researchers discovered that one fourth of the weight lost by the aerobic group was muscle. The resistance group's muscle mass remained static even though their diet was severely restricted. Long-duration, low-intensity cardio can break down muscle tissue to be used as fuel (diet plays a huge role).

If your goal is fat loss and muscle growth, it is best to stick with short-duration, high-intensity cardio and strength training. Check out RHF by visiting

You Can Never Out-Exercise a Bad Diet. You Can Outsmart Your Appetite. 

Want to raid the refrigerator after a workout? Science now suggests that these cravings are linked closely with the type of exercise performed. It all has to do with the hunger hormone ghrelin, which lines the stomach walls and signals the brain to eat.

According to a study from the Else-Kröner-Fresenius Center of Nutritional Medicine at the Technical University of Munich, people who cycled at 50 watts (light effort) for 30, 60, and 120 minutes experienced a serious spike in ghrelin release that triggered the desire to eat. However, ghrelin secretion remained unchanged when exercisers kicked up the intensity to 100 watts (moderate effort) during a short, 30-minute workout. 

The authors state that "low- rather than high-intensity exercise stimulates ghrelin levels independent of exercise duration."Another study, from Leeds University in Britain, backs up this counterintuitive wisdom by showing that intense exercise actually suppresses appetite. Other researchers suggest this is due to the temporary blunting of ghrelin release and increased secretion of peptide YY-the hormone responsible for appetite suppression.

Without those nagging hunger pangs, the ability to make sensible nutrition choices should be much easier. With that being said, you still want to take your post-workout formula (within 45 minutes of workout) to speed and maximize your recovery. 

Rocky Reeves, MS is the owner/operator of Rock Hard Fitness (RHF) in Anchorage, Alaska. RHF specializes in 30 minute metabolic workouts (RHF Burn30 Bootcamp). Rocky has taught well over 10,000 boot camp classes in the last 13 plus years (as of 2016) and his client list is in the thousands.


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