Efficient Exercise

One and Done: Five Easy Steps to a One Hour Workout

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Two of the biggest mistakes I see in the gym are people training too often, and not training hard enough. Most folks mistakenly believe that they can make up for lower quality workouts, by simply upping the quantity. Unfortunately this does not work.

Most of these people hit the gym five or six days a week, repeating the same old stuff over and over, like a hamster going round and round on his little wheel. The sad thing is they make about as much forward progress as that hamster does…they are basically going no where.

On the other end of the spectrum are the folks who feel they just don’t have time to train. They want to do cardio, lift weights, stretch, and still have a life. They look at the gym hamsters, and wish that they to could somehow find the time to spend 10-12 hours a week in the gym.

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WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!

First, you will not make progress by doing the same thing over and over. If you expect your body to produce a change, than you must start by inducing that change with an unaccustomed stimulus.

Next,once the stimulus has been introduced, get out of the gym and let your body do it’s thing. The workout does not produce the change. Change happens during your recovery period.

Finally, 4-6 workouts every two weeks is enough for anyone to get the job done. Not only that, each workout should not take more than an hour to complete. That’s right, one hour. You will do cardio, weights, stretching…and all in one hour.

Here’s how it works:

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Step One. 0-5 minutes. Warm-up = Easy cycling @ 60% Max Heart Rate

Step Two. 5-20 minutes. Endurance exercise (Cardio) = Interval cycling alternating 3-min @ 70% Max Heart Rate and 3-min @ 80% Max Heart Rate

Step Three. 20-25 minutes. Cool-down = Easy cycling @ 60% Max Heart Rate

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Step Four. 25-55 minutes. Strength Training = One set each of 8-12 exercises covering all major muscle groups. Example: Leg Press, Leg Curl, Chest Press, Row, Shoulder Press, Pull-down, Triceps, Biceps, Ab’s, Low-back

Step Five. 55-60 minutes. Cool-down and Stretching = the Big-4: Hamstring stretch, Low-back Stretch, Shoulder Stretch, Calf Stretch

WOW…That was easy. Now, get into the gym and create your own workout using the above guidelines as your template. If you like free-weights, use free-weights. If you prefer running or rowing to cycling, DO IT!.  Try alternating three days in the gym the first week, and only two days the next. Mix things up, keep it fresh.

Before you know it, you’ll be having fun, getting fit, and still have time for a life outside the gym.

TAKU

Functional Isometrics: Part Two

By TAKU

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In Part One of this article we learned about some different forms of strength training and discussed their similarities and differences including Isometrics and Functional Isometrics. In part two we will take a closer look at how to incorporate these concepts into a your workout program. I will also introduce the concept of Static Contraction training an ultra brief, intense and efficient workout system based on the Functional isometric concept.

Exercise Example:

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Lets take a look at the execution of the Bench Press using the Functional isometric training style discussed in part one.

Step One: First you will need a good Power Rack / Cage or Smith Machine with multiple height adjustments. Set the safety pins at a position about even with the bottom of your range of movement. Load a weight that is about 50% of your current max. If you rarely or never perform 1RMs then estimate from a 5-10 RM using an RM calculator. You will then position yourself under the bar and get yourself set in a good, solid, pressing position (do I need to explain how to properly bench press?). Lift the bar and hold it just a few inches off the bottom pins, for 6-10 seconds. If it felt super easy, add some weight, rest up a couple minutes and do it again. Once it feels really challenging at that height your done.

Step Two: Raise the pins to the mid-range or sticking point of the movement. At this point (if you are not already there) add enough weight so that you are at or near your current max. Lift the bar and hold it just few inches off the pins, for 6-10 seconds. If it felt super easy, add some weight, rest up a couple minutes and do it again. Once it feels really challenging at that height your done.

Step Three: Raise the pins so that they are just a few inches away from your lock-out position (4-6 inches). At this point (depending on how your other sets have gone) add enough weight so that you are at or slightly above your current max. Lift the bar and hold it just a few inches off the pins, for 6-10 seconds. If it felt super easy, add some weight, rest up a couple minutes and do it again. Once it feels really challenging at that height your done.

When performing these types of sets you want to strive for maximum efficiency. The more accurate your records the less weight adjustments you will be required to make. The goal is for you to know exactly how much weight will challenge you in each range, for each movement. This may take a week or two to figure out. Once you have your weight dialed in for each movement, you should perform no more then one, all-out contraction for 6-10 seconds in each of the three positions.

I often cycle Functional isometrics into my own strength training program for several months at a time. I find these types of workouts to be very challenging and extremely effective and efficient. I will load up for the exercise I am going to perform and start with the weakest part of the range first. I then do one, all-out contraction for 6-10 seconds in that position. I raise the weight to the next part of my ROM and after a brief rest, complete another 6-10 second contraction. One more adjustment, one more contraction, and I am done for that exercise. I find I can complete and entire full-body workout in as little as 20 minutes. This is possible because I know exactly how much weight to use for each movement which makes set up quite simple.

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For Ultimate Efficiency

There are thousands of athletes and general fitness enthusiasts around the world who use a type of Functional isometrics termed Static Contraction training as their only form of strength training. In this style you perform just one, all out contraction in the strongest range for each basic pushing and pulling movement. As I mentioned earlier in this article, this style of training is easiest to perform with a dedicated device such as those produced by ONE REP GYM however terrific results can be had using conventional equipment as well.

With just a little practice and dedication you can learn to fine tune the specific ROM of each exercise to produce amazing results in just a few minutes per workout. Static contractions performed in the strongest range, using one all-out contraction, for as little as 6-10 seconds, can produce rapid improvements in muscular strength and performance. Now those of you who are really paying attention may be saying “hey, what about the joint angle specificity problem you mentioned above? For many people The 15-20 degree carryover on either side of a specific joint angle is more then enough to supply usable functional strength for all activities. For some blessed with what is termed a type “G” strength curve, training in just about any part of ones ROM will produce results throughout the entire ROM (This is a genetic attribute and not subject to change).

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The bottom line is that when performing functional isometrics using the Static Contraction method, one may complete a brief, intense workout in just 3-5 minutes (not including set up, breakdown and rest). Individuals who regularly use this style of training will often rest and recover for 7-10 days (sometimes more) before the next session. For those who feel that they do not have time to strength train, Static Contraction training my be the tool you have been searching for.

Now get to it!

TAKU’s NOTE:. Functional isometrics are a great tool to have in your tool box. Whether you decide to buy and use a dedicated machine or to incorporate these into your regular weight workouts, I highly recommend you give Functional isometrics a try. Don’t be surprised to find your strength shooting up to new heights in a few short weeks.

References:

  1. Graves, J., Pollock, M., Jones, A., Colvin, A., & Leggett, S. (1989). Specificity of limited range of motion variable resistance training. Medicine And Science In Sports And Exercise, 21(1), 84-89.

  2. Knapik JA. Mawdsley RH. Ramos MU: Angular Specificity and Test Mode Specificity of Isometric and lsokinetic Strength Training. Journal Of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 5:58-65.1983

  3. Kitai, T., & Sale, D. (1989). Specificity of joint angle in isometric training. European Journal Of Applied Physiology And Occupational Physiology, 58(7), 744-748. doi:10.1007/bf00637386

  4. Jackson, A. (1985). Strength Development: Using Functional Isometrics in an Isotonic Strength Training Program. Research Quarterly For Exercise And Sport, 56(3), 234-37.


Functional Isometrics: Par One

By TAKU

This weeks podcast features an interview with Shawn Bennett developer of the One Rep Gym and a form of Static Contraction Training called Measured Intensity Training.

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Static or isometric style strength training has probably been around in one form or another, since the dawn of man. Some see it as a tool only to be used to pass sticking points or as an adjunct to “real” strength training. While others use it as their only form of improving muscular performance. Still, for many the whole concept of training statically may seem strange or appear quite revolutionary. Which ever camp you belong to I assure you that Static / Isometric style training is highly effective and can be quite simple to implement with just a little practice. Lets investigate with a little Q&A:

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Q: What are isometrics?
A: Isometric training refers to exerting strength without movement. The most classic form of isometric training is pushing or pulling an immovable load.

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Q: Why include any form of isometrics?
A: You actually recruit more motor-units during an isometric action than during a concentric action.

Q: If isometric training is so good, why doesn’t everyone use it?
A: Actually many people use isometric or static training in a variety of applications. However, there are two main problems with pure isometric training:

1. It’s impossible to quantify progress. Since you’re not moving a load, you don’t know if you’re improving or if you’re exerting maximal effort or not. This creates problems with accurately determining progression which may lead to diminished motivation.

2. Isometric training may be angle specific, meaning that it’s possible you’ll gain strength only at the joint angles being worked. (Some theorize that there’s only a 15-20 degree carryover of strength gains on either side of the specific angle trained.)

Q: Then why bother including isometrics at all?
A: Isometric or Static training is one of if not the most efficient forms of strength training available. However due to the above mentioned limitations many people do not explore this form of training.

Luckily there are two solutions available which overcome all of the problems of classic isometrics, and make them not only worth including but easy to accurately measure and track for on-going progressive overload.

Functional isometrics

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Q: What are Functional isometrics?
A: Functional isometrics are a bit different. You still exert force without movement, but you’re actually lifting a load or tracking your force output with dedicated technology.

Q: How do I incorporate these into my training plan?
A: There are several ways in which you may include functional isometrics into your training. The first is to purchase a dedicated machine such as the ones available from:
ONE REP GYM

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Q: What if I can’t afford one of these machines or I don’t want to wait to try Functional isometrics?
A: Well, you are in luck. All you need is access to some basic gym equipment and you can start using this highly effective style of training right away.

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Q: What exercises can I perform using Functional isometrics?
A: This type of exercise can be used with many weight lifting exercises. Traditionally power lifters and Olympic style weightlifters have used static holds to over come sticking points in exercises such as the Bench Press, Deadlift / Clean, and Overhead Press.

I find Functional isometrics to be effective for most of your standard pushing and pulling movements. With access to basic gym equipment such as a leg press, rowing and pull-down machines and a good power cage or Smith Machine you can perform just about any exercise you can think of.

Q: How do I execute a Functional Isometric exercise using standard Weight training equipment?
A: You start the bar at a specific height and lift it two to three inches. Then you hold the position for six to ten seconds. You keep on adding weight until you can’t lift and hold it for at least six seconds while maintaining a good lifting posture. This way you’re actually lifting weights and can quantify your progress.

Q: How do I overcome the problem of joint angle specificity?
A: If you only perform single angle movements, the problem of joint angle specificity may still apply. That’s why some may want to use three positions working the whole range of motion of a selected movement. The three positions are:

1. A few inches after the start position

2. Sticking point

3. A few inches from the final position

For more on Static - Isometric training including examples of how to set up and perform basic exercises please read part two of this article.

THINK EFFORT!!

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For many years I have been recommending effort based training systems which are built around brief, intense, infrequent training sessions. This style of training has proven itself to be safe, efficient, and effective. Although this style of training has been around for at least 40 years, it is still somehow not always embraced by the mainstream. Some coaches like to claim that athletes do not use this style of training. This is totally false as approximately 50% of the NFL trains using this style of training as well as numerous other professional and college programs, and even Olympic athletes. Click the link below to see some examples of teams that utilize this style of training:

 

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TEAMS:

Research showing the benefits of this style of training has also been around for years. Just recently some interesting studies have been released showing the positive results of various effort based training systems. Click the links below to see some current research on this topic:

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RESEARCH 1.

RESEARCH 2.  

As we move forward we will be posting numerous articles explaining how to design and implement effort based training programs for yourself and others. You will also find many examples of ready made workout plans. Copy a few of them and insert them into your training regimen for a nice change of pace.

Here is a video showing one example of a challenging, total-body, effort based workout:

 

Finally...Based on current research here is a list of seven straightforward guidelines which have been shown to work. These recommendations make sense for just about everyone.

(Parenthetical comments are clarifications.)

1) Select one or two free weight or machine exercises for each muscle group. (Exercises may be changed from time to time.)

2) Lifting duration should be consistent with good form throughout each repetition. (Not too slow or too fast)

3) Range of repetitions can be from 3 to 20, which may vary from exercise to exercise or workout to workout.

4) Strive to do as many perfect reps as possible with the weight selected, stopping only when it becomes difficult to maintain good form. (Continue each set until volitional fatigue. for optimal strength gains.)

5) Do one set of each exercise. (There is very little evidence to suggest that multiple sets of each exercise are superior to a single set for strength gains.)

6) Rest long enough between exercises to allow proper form for each exercise. (Don’t rush or rest longer than necessary.)

7) Train each muscle group 1 to 2 times a week, depending on individual recuperation and response.

Remember it's not the quantity, but the quality of your training that boosts your results.

THINK EFFORT!!

TAKU