another email

This one is one I sent to a friend nearly a year ago after she told me she had to go hit the treadmill to burn some kcals after hitting the abz, then I flipped out on her and made her do basic stuff till she cried…  Except for she didn’t cry.  A small amount of editing has been done to make me seem slightly less offensive than I am to her, although just for kicks I did some crossed-out editing in the parentheses.  Forgive any grammar errors or redundancies…. or don’t.  But do enjoy!

So here’s a rant based on what you talked about Friday night about losing 5 lbs and prioritizing simple cardio over weights.  Buckle up (derogotary name), this’ll be good.

Regardless of whether the goals are to lose weight, increase strength, increase muscle mass, lose body fat, etc, the quickest path is still resistance training.  Coaches have known it for years and science is finally showing study after study to back that up.  Prioritizing simple, low intensity cardio over resistance training typically leads to two outcomes:

1) decreased muscle mass because running/cycling at low intensity requires very little muscle to complete the desired amount of time or distance.  In fact, extra muscle is often a hindrance to endurance based activity since it is simply “extra weight” that you must move around

2)  loss of muscle mass or at the very least, decreased energy for resistance training resulting in less than desired results.

The problem with steady state cardio

You get more efficient at it.  Boom!  Knowledge bomb bitches.  Efficiency is not a good thing when it comes to burning more calories.  Just like a very efficient car (Prius) takes a long time to use up 10 gallons of gas, a very inneficient car (Abrams Tank) uses up that gas very quickly.  In the Battle of the Bulge, we want a very inneficient engine.  Really we just want a big, high temperature engine that tears through our energy reserves (fat).  So in a real world example, if it takes you 200 kcals to run one mile on day 1, then, knowing our body will quickly adapt to the stimulus we place upon it, your body will quickly “learn” how to expend fewer calories to run that exact same distance.  There are two ways to increase caloric expenditure though. 1) run longer distance or 2) run faster.   Here’s the issues with those two solutions.

Running Longer – We only have so many hours in the day.  Do you really want to spend 5 of them on a treadmill to try to burn those extra 200 kcals from last nights dinner?  Running longer means a greater time commitment which not many of us want to commit to.  There’s a big strike against steady state cardio.

Run Faster – We can only run so fast.  At a certain point, running is no longer an aerobic activity but breaks the threshold and becomes an anaerobic activity.  There is nothing wrong with anaerobic activity, hell I make a living off of it, but if anaerobic activity was the goal then why bother running at all?

Bonus problem: It is boring as (something really boring)!!! – I don’t know that I really need to expand on this but it is something we all know.  Several studies have been designed to study the difference between aerobic vs. anaerobic training in regards to body fat loss and while they each show some positive results, there is a much higher dropout rate among the aerobic people because it is boring as ballz!

Bonus problem #2:  You only burn calories while doing the aerobic activty itself – because of the reatively low intensity of the demand your body utilizes very little energy to complete the task and also very little to repair itself afterwards so no bonus points for providing an increase in metabolic activity… quite the opposite really.

Resistance training for aesthetic purposes

Let’s expand on the importance of building muscle/strength for the purpose of aesthetic reasons.  Muscle = good.  Muscle is metabolically expensive, meaning it requires a great deal more calories to maintain than does fat.  That being said, your body will keep only what you require of it.  We have all seen the “cardio bunnies” and know that although they may spend two hours a day on the treadmill/elliptical/bike and lose weight, they actually do little to improve body composition,  They keep their same body, but now just have a smaller version of their old body.  We call them “skinny fat” people.  The scale is a liar, particularly to people like you who very naturally have a smaller frame.  Increasing muscle cross-section in the presence of a healthy diet, i.e. lean proteins and vegetables, will result in an increased metabolic expenditure (you burn more calories while doing (nothing, Double parentheses bonus!)) and an improved body fat% (remember when you had your sweet-ass 6-pack?).  Those are good things.

But let’s discuss the above problems I outlined and apply them to resistance training.

Adaptation – Yes, we will adapt to resistance training as well.  It’s called “getting stronger/awesome”.  The solution is elegantly simple: add more weight. Yep, all there is to it.  Yes, at a certain point adding more weight to a certain lift becomes an arduous/nearly impossible task, but most of us are a long ways away from that, yes I include myself and I sure as hell include you in that category.  Other solutions include an exercise progression, like going from a regular pushup to an explosive pushup, or an RDL to a regular Deadlift, etc.  But sticking with the original solution of adding more weight, it is virtually impossible to fully metabolically adapt since getting stronger requires you to increase the stimulus from the previous session.

Boring factor:  Not much.  If you have some familiarity with the Weight Room then your exercise options are nearly limitless.  Your routine is only as boring as you want it to be.  The real challenge is choosing what not to do!

Metabolic Increase: – Yep, it kinda does that in a big way.  Alwyn Cosgrove dubbed it the “Afterburn Effect”.  Resistance training with appropriate amounts of intensity (read: heavier than pink DB’s) results in an elevated metabolism for as long as 48 hours.  So you see, you not only burn kcals whil lifting heavy things, but burn extra calories afterwards as well, something aerobic conditioning fails to deliver on.

Common objections

But what about cardio? –  Exactly how the (I’m sure I said “Heck” here and not something my mom would frown at me for…. Happy Birthday Mom!) is resistance training in a circuit fashion not cardio?  The definition of cardiovascular activity is any activity that simultaneously increases both respiration and heart rate.  My clients breathe like hell and their hearts pound too so they must be fulfilling that obligation.

Aerobic training is where the fat-loss zone is –  Ready for another knowledge bomb?  There is no such thing as the fat-loss zone.  Again, BOOM!  Total bullshit purported by cardio machine designers to get you to buy their treadmills with the little scale on it that says where your heartrate is.  If the purported fat loss zone is between 60-80% of maximal HR then what happens when we go above or below that heart rate?  We burn more or less calories accordingly.  At lower heart rates we burn a greater % of fat from a smaller number of calories.  If the Fat-Burning zone really existed it would in fact be when you slept, since that is when the heart rate is lowest and the greatest percentage of fat is being burned.  When fat loss is the goal, simply consuming fewer kcals than you are expending is the real goal. Not rocket science there.

Take home Points:

Prioritze the weight room.

Place far less emphasis on aerobic conditioning.

The Ram makes people more awesome and leaner too so HOW DARE you not come out last week.

Bottom line, the treadmill is for skinny-fat chicks, weight room is for hardbodies… and swimsuit season is 12 weeks away, I know I just wrote a blog about it.

OK, I’ve got to go eat again and then go lift heavy objects just because I can before my computer guy comes over to fix this thing up.  And then do taxes…  Then write programs, then prep for my bootcamp, then do more stuff.

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One Response to another email

  1. Liz Waters ( who else) says:

    Chris, glad to read you have not lost even you have refined your sense of humor. I remember in the yrs. (many) past you were the shy young man. You had big dreams then, I always knew you would be a success
    Doing and growing your love for what you do best at. I couldn’t be happier for you.

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