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Beast mode or least mode?

May 19, 2017

In my initial consultation with prospective clients I always ask what goals the client has in mind. What are they looking to accomplish? Not one person in my many years of training has ever said “I just want to get really sweaty!” or “I want to lie on the gym floor writhing in pain close to death!” Usually people’s goals are “I’d like to lose some weight.” “I want to get bigger, stronger, faster.” “I want to look good nekkid.” Training shouldn’t be about kicking someones butt in the gym it should be about reaching goals. Kicking your clients butt is all well and good and sweat will probably be a byproduct of training but it’s not the goal. It’s important not to confuse sweat with fitness. There is a big fad in the fitness industry these days with high intensity training. BEAST MODE! Is beast mode the best mode? Is there such as thing as too much high intensity.
"Most of the time when we look at trends, we think they're based on marketing," says Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance University. "HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is supported by scientific evidence. But when things become a trend, they get taken too far." High intensity training is an exercise strategy alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. There is such a thing as too much high intensity work. The more high intensity work you do the more recovery you need. There is a saying that goes “You don’t get stronger by lifting weights, you get stronger by recovering from lifting weights.” If you don’t give your body enough time to recover before your next training session you are just going to break down your body instead of building it. You’re going to increase risk of injury, lower effectiveness of your immune system, and you are going to add unnecessary stress that can inhibit fat loss and deplete muscle. Aside from possibly being detrimental to your fitness goals excessive high intensity exercise may cause issues with heart health as well. A recent study by the Division of Clinical Epidemiology and Aging Research, German Cancer Research Center, examined cardiovascular events and mortality of 1038 participants over 10 years. Frequency of strenuous leisure time physical activity was assessed repeatedly. Evidence was found of increased cardiovascular mortality in patients with daily strenuous physical activity, which warrants further investigation. Though the most inactive were most likely to suffer heart attack or stroke the most strenuously active were more likely to experience cardiac events than the moderate exercisers. Department of Cardiology at the Karolinska Institute, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm presented another study finding that men who exercised intensely for more than 5 hours a week were 19% more likely to develop an irregular heartbeat by 60 years of age, which is a known stroke risk factor. I think we’ve established too much high intensity may not be the best option. So can high intensity still be beneficial in the right dose?
As Coach Tumminello said “HIIT is supported by scientific evidence.” High intensity exercise burns calories faster than conventional steady state cardiovascular exercise and continues to burn calories after the workout is over. Standard cardio only burns calories as you are exercising. Most trainees can benefit from one or two high intensity sessions per week as long as there is enough recovery in between. If you are just starting out you may want to build a general cardio base first before attempting high intensity work so you don’t increase risk of injury. I would generally stay away from beast mode and shoot for least mode. You want to get in the gym and do the least amount of work necessary for optimal results (which may include sweating) and then relax and recover. You should still be putting in maximum effort in your training sessions but the high intensity sessions described above should be limited to once or twice per week. The clients who get the most out of their training are the ones who optimize their recovery process.
High intensity exercise isn’t a bad thing as long as you give time for recovery and you don’t get excessive with it. More isn’t always better. As Paracelsus said “The dose makes the poison.” It’s important not to confuse sweat with progress. Killing yourself every day in the gym may not get you to where you want to be. If you need help designing a program that will get you to your goals go see a qualified personal trainer. Always ask you prospective trainer for his/her credentials so you know they will be programming responsibly without over training. There should be a specific plan to reach your goals, it should be written out, and progress should be recorded. You should not just be destroyed in the gym every day. If your trainer isn’t doing these things you may want to look elsewhere. For the record, there is no “beast mode” with my clients. They’re beasts 24/7. 
 

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