Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This One's for John G. - Part II

In Part I, I laid out the concept of the Tabata Protocol and how it relates to cardiovascular health. Here in Part II, I will explain how these principles can be applied to strength workouts. The information laid out here is not related to Dr. Tabata's work, but is the result of experimentation done by many Strength and Conditioning coaches around the world.

There are a couple of key concepts regarding high-intensity strength training that must be understood before moving forward. The first is known as EPOC, or Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. This is the technical term for the amount of energy that the body burns AFTER you are done working out. This # is significantly higher with high intensity exercise (heavy lifting with little rest or cardio exercise similar to what was laid out in Part I) then with low intensity exercise. As a matter of fact, when it comes to fat burning (one of three major reasons we exercise) in a study done at Laval University in 1994, they showed that for every minute of exercise, high intensity work beat out low intensity work by 900%!!! Sound too good to be true? Click the link and read it yourself, then go to the sidebar on that page and read similar studies with similar results.

That's two (cardiovascular health and fat burning) of the three major reasons (the third being skeletal muscle strength) we exercise where we've seen shorter bouts of high intensity blow away longer bouts of low intensity exercise. There is mounting evidence that when training for strength endurance (as opposed to maximal strength), performing a high volume of work over a short period of time, with minimal rest may be an ideal way to train for the general population, as well as for those involved in high endurance/high strength vocations and/or sports (fire and law enforcement pros, fighters, special forces.) This is the way that many of the best fighters in the UFC train; it is also part of a growing movement among the general public through the efforts of Greg Glassman of Crossfit. Many of the cast members of 300, the movie about ancient Sparta trained this way as well.

A sample workout might look something like this:

Using just your bodyweight for resistance, perform 3 - 5 circuits of the following exercises for 12 repetitions each. Rest 1 minute in between circuits.

  1. Push-ups
  2. Squats
  3. Plank to side plank (6/side)
  4. Reverse lunge (6/side)

Depending on your fitness level and how many circuits you did, this workout could take any where from 6.5 to 18 minutes. In it you worked most major muscles in your body. The ones you didn't work, you would be sure to hit in your next workout.

Another example might use the timing of the Tabata Protocol for each round. It might look like this:

With a 20 second work to 10 second rest ratio, perform the following movements in circuit fashion, completing each movement for 2 20 second sets in a four minute round. Repeat for 1, 2 or 3 rounds, resting 1 minute between rounds.

  1. Chin-ups
  2. Lunge walks
  3. Side planks
  4. Bear crawls

Now, I am not advocating that this should be the only type of workout you ever do. However, if a client came to me and wanted me to write them a program, but said that they only had time for one full length workout per week, and that the rest of the week they could give me 10 minutes a day on average, I would be very excited about the goals they could achieve in this seemingly limited amount of time. (Yes, I am the king of the run-on sentence!)

Lastly, it can be very helpful to have a timer that beeps for you when performing any type of interval training. Otherwise, you are constantly trying to look at the clock or count in your head while you are doing this. If you always work out close to your computer, try this one for free. It was written by a crossfitter. Unfortunately, it is only set up for the Tabata Protocol, and is not customizable, but still a good tool (and hey, it's free!) My favorite timer can be had for the low, low price of $19.95. It's called the Gymboss Interval Timer, and is completely customizable for continuous work and rest periods from :01 all the way up to 59:59. This thing is awesome! It has a beep low, beep high, vibrate, beep low/vibrate, and beep high/vibrate modes. I love the beephigh/vibrate mode. If I'm in a loud environment, I put it in a small plastic bucket, and it makes all kinds of noise when it goes off. It also has a little clip to clip it to your shorts or shirt as you're exercising. I really can't recommend it highly enough.

Train Smart, Eat Right

P.S. I'm editing this post, because I just found a great new online timer. The timer includes the following features:

  • Standard timer
  • Countdown timer
  • Setup and execute intervals
  • Audio notifications of interval and countdown events
  • Pause timer by any key press
  • Simple, intuitive interface

The designer stated in his blog that this is only the beta version, and that he is looking to make it available as a download to be used offline in the near future as well.

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