Category Archives: Workouts

Interval Training: Variability of Exercise Intensity

Do you happen to be a cardio junkie? It seems everyone believes “cardio” is the optimum exercise for losing body fat and getting back in shape. Well, I’m going to explain to you in this article why I am in total disagreement with that opinion.

Most of us have been told by our doctors, fitness coaches, and many other health pros that doing low to moderate cardio, or intensity aerobic training, is for anyone who is looking to lose some weight and prevent heart disease. Most of the time those recommendations sound like this:

“You need to be doing 30-60 minutes of cardio at a steady pace, 3-5 times per week while keeping your heart rate at a conservative level.”

Now before you embrace this currently popular belief system, and turn into the “hamster on the wheel” who’s doing countless hours of cardio exercise, please consider some of the more recent scientific research information indicating that doing literal endurance cardio work at a sustained pace may not be all they say it is.

First of all, our bodies weren’t designed for long term steady motion, but more for a burst of physical activity (stop-and-go rather than steadily moving) followed by a time out for recouping our energy. What is being suggested by recent research is that using a variety of physical motion in your training regimen is one of more important aspects to consider.

You will notice this example most often in nature, as the majority of animals naturally us a stop-and-go movement instead of sustained, continuous motion.  The truth is humans are actually the only one in nature that even attempts any sort of physical activities that test their endurance. If you look at the majority of competitive sports, other than endurance cycling or running, they’re all based on stop-and-go motion or short bursts of action followed by rest period.

Another example is to compare the physiques of marathon runners versus sprinters when you consider the varying effects of endurance, or steady state training, versus the results of stop and go training. A sprinter’s body will be muscular, powerful, and lean, while a committed marathoner’s body is quite often emaciated and looking like death warmed over. Okay, which of these looks would you prefer to have?

Another thing to remember when you start looking at what benefits are derived by physical variability is the effect on the inside of our bodies from different types of exercise. Scientists have been aware for some time of the effects of doing excessive, steady state endurance exercises (the basic definition here is more than 60 minutes sessions almost every day of the week) are: increases the production of free radicals in your body, can cause joint degeneration, will reduce immunity functions, cause muscle wasting, and causes inflammatory responses that might lead to continuous diseases in your body.

A Look at the Difference with Highly Variable Cyclic Training

In comparison, variable cyclic training has been associated with an increase in anti-oxidant production and an anti-inflammatory response in the body, a much more efficient nitric oxide reaction (which supports a healthy cardiovascular system), and a large increase in the metabolic rate response (which is what helps you to lose weight!).

In addition, the steady state endurance training ends up training the heart in just one heart rate range, which doesn’t help you when you’re responding to the various stresses you face each day.

That’s one of the high points in variable cyclic training as the heart is taught to respond and then recover from a myriad of demands during the day, which means less chance of it failing you when you really need it.

This is an exercise that literally trains the heart to rapidly increase, and then decrease, meaning your heart is much more prepared to handle the stress of every day life. Needless to say, stress of any kind creates a rapid increase to both blood pressure and heart rate. You will not be able to train your heart to deal with any rapid heart rate changes or blood pressure by doing steady jogging or the other types of endurance training.

It is those recovery times between the exertions that are most important with variable cyclic training, and makes is so much better than steady state cardio exercise. For your body to respond well to exercise that is stimulating, it’s very important that is has a recovery period as well. One of the other benefits of variable cyclic training is what fun exercise it is to do, which explains why it has a much lower rate of drop-outs than the boring steady state cardio training.

In summation, the benefits available from variable cyclic training, when compared to steady state endurance training, would be: an improvement of cardiovascular health, an increase anti-oxidant protection, better immune function, reduces the risk of joint damage reduced, increase in muscularity (vs decrease with endurance training), and increase in residual metabolic rates after exercise, and better heart capacity for handling life’s day to day stress situations.

Learn About Sports Workouts and Sprinting

When it comes to variable intensity physical training, there are lots of ways you will achieve the benefits. You may notice that most of the competitive sports like basketball, football, racquetball, volleyball, hockey, and tennis are built on highly variable stop-and-go motions that are pushing the heart through a much more intense range than steady jogging or walking does.

Applying this variable intensity style to swimming workouts can prove to be of more benefit than just doing laps over and over at the same speed. The same principle applies to bicycling – and that’s the reason mountain biking, with the extreme ups and downs involved at a variety of intensity levels, might be more beneficial than a flat, steadily paced bike ride.

One of the most effective and powerful choices of variable intensity training for greatly reducing body fat while getting muscular definition, is doing wind sprints. Wind sprints are running close to your maximum speed for 10-30 seconds, and then walking out for 60 seconds recovery before you run the next sprint. Most people find that 6-12 total sprint intervals is a tremendously challenging workout.

Another example of that is weight training, which naturally exerts short bursts of energy followed immediately by a recovery period. You can also achieve high intensity interval training by varying the high-low intervals on various pieces of cardio equipment, and is an additional training method where you’re able to make use of exertion and recovery periods. For instance, imagine creating an interval training working on a treadmill that might look like:

  • Starting with a fast walk or light jog, you warm-up for 3-4 minutes.
  • Interval 1 – running at 8.0 mi/hr for just one minute.
  • Interval 2 – walking at 4.0 mi/hr for about a minute and a half.
  • Interval 3 – running at 10.0 mi/hr for another minute.
  • Interval 4 – once more walking at 4.0 i/hr for a minute and a half.

If you were to repeat these four intervals four times, you would have one incredibly intense 20-minute workout! Don’t discount the other excellent options available for variable intensity cardio training such as jumping rope, working out on a rowing machine, or running up hills outdoors. Circuit training is also another excellent way to do a variable intensity workout.

The main message of this article is to have you set a goal of using variable rates for most of your workouts to train your body and achieve the most benefits in your goal of losing fat, having a healthy heart, and maintaining your muscle tone. When you combine a healthy diet with both a full-body, well-designed resistance training program with a high intensity cardiovascular training program, you are guaranteed to lose that body fat – and all this plus more is included in my book, “The Truth About Six Pack Abs.” This is a book you have to read if you’re truly serious and ready to get lean and healthy for good.

This is a article written by Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist as well as Certified Personal Trainer and author of the best selling weight loss ebook, The Truth About Six Pack Abs.

Speed Hiking Workouts from the US Military

Need to lose some weight? Get fit? Don’t want to join a gym? Then just go for a walk! More advice from the US Military for getting fit without subscribing to a gym class.

Find a pair of walking boots, or even an old pair of trainers, and get walking around town, over the hills, through the woods, wherever is available to you. Just because the countryside may be far away, there is no reason why you cannot adopt the following exercise in town. Do your weekly supermarket shop on foot! Read on.

Speed hiking is a lifetime sport which incorporates hiking, backpacking and some forms of mountaineering into one activity.

It is excellent aerobic training for cardiovascular fitness and provides strength, power and muscular endurance for the legs, back and upper body. It combines an outdoor setting with the physical challenge of the individual vs. the environment.

Speed hiking can be used as an activity itself, or it can be a training mode for extended hiking and backpacking. It can be competitive or purely recreational. The benefits of speed hiking can be physiological, psychological and social.

If you like the outdoors and thrive on physical activity, the challenge of speed hiking may be for you!

What you need to get started:

  • Sturdy, light- to mid-weight hiking boots and well-padded hiking socks.
  • A comfortable backpack large enough to carry 20 percent of your body weight.
  • Clothing suitable for hiking and variable weather conditions.
  • Water bottles, canteens or hydration packs, energy snacks, sweat towel, watch, sunglasses.
  • An outdoor setting, preferably with challenging hills to set up a course.
  • An appreciation for the outdoors and physical activity.

How To Start A Speed Hiking Fitness Regime

  • Set up a course for time, distance or completion.
  • Saddle up and go.
  • Negotiate (hike) the course as fast as your present physical conditioning level will allow.
  • Upon completion, check your time or distance for future comparison.

Guidelines to follow:

  • Do not run. Speed hiking is not trail running nor fastpacking.
  • Challenge yourself. Although speed hikes can be competitive vs. time or an opponent, ultimately it is the individual against whatever environment he/she creates.
  • Take short rest breaks when necessary.
  • Hydrate yourself as necessary.
  • Use energy snacks before energy levels subside.
  • Set parameters for your hikes and course(s). Do not always to try to better your last hike.
  • Vary your training with your present physical condition and fitness level by changing intensity, duration and terrain.
  • Starting distance (or time) for speed hikes should be consistent with your present physical condition and fitness level.
  • It is recommended to carry 20 percent of your body weight in the backpack for overload benefits. However, in the beginning stages, carry less weight (even an empty backpack) and gradually work up to the 20-percent level.
  • Crosstrain. Speed hiking is compatible with running, cycling, weight training and other forms of aerobic activity.


Health and well-being Web special: Speed hiking, by George R. Colfer, from

TRX Suspension Training System

If you are looking for a new and exciting way to do some intensive bodyweight training then you should find a local gym with the TRX Suspension Training System installed.

The TRX provides a complete body workout without having to purchase any weights or resistance machines. The US Military have used this system to aid training and celebrities such as Tobey Maguire used it to help get in shape for Spiderman.

TRX has been around for a couple of years now. At first many people thought it was just a gimmick, but once you do a suspension workout you soon realise that it is a serious piece of kit.

Suspension training was actually invented by an ex-Navy Seal to get troops in top shape. Although it is just some nylon straps you do obviously need a solid base on which to connect them. A power cage should allow you to connect them up OK.

Benefits of TRX Suspension Training

Suspension training works the whole body and is a great fat burning workout and toner.

  • Suspension training improves posture by strengthening core muscles
  • Nearly 300 exercises can be done on a suspension trainer
  • Tee straps can help assist you when doing bodyweight exercises such as assisted pull ups
  • Adding some suspension exercises to your weight training and cardio routine helps to prevent muscle memory and work muscles of neglected
  • It is good for rehabilitation exercises as the straps can help support and assist movements
  • Good for ski training to develop core strength and flexibility
  • Spiderman does tham as part of his training (Tobey Maguire, who plays Spiderman in the films)

It is not something that you can easily set up in a home gym though, but if you local gym has some equipment make the most of it. Some gyms now arrange classes based around TRX.

Where to Find TRX Gyms and Classes

In no particular order:

All details correct as at 31st December 2011. Please leave a comment below if any information is out of date.


Kettlebell Lessons with Steve Cotter

Since I started training with kettlebells last month I have been looking for some more good online lessons on how to lift.

Going along to a class is still the best option as you get hands on coaching and any problems with your form can be picked up before habit forms. But online videos are still a great way to learn and to remind yourself of the correct techniques.

Kettlebells are really a slightly less safe exercise. They involve big and fast movements while swinging and lifting a heavy weight. Unlike standard barbell and dumbbell training there is more pressure on the lower back, more turning movements, increased movement of the wrists and other joints.

It is definitely not advisable to start a kettlebell workout plan for the first time with a heavy weight. Start light and build up as you become more confident with the movements.

I recently asked for opinion over at the UK Muscle forum on the best way to learn kettlebells. I was advised to get instruction, so joined a local class (only about 15 minutes drive away) and I am really enjoying the energy and enthusiasm in the class, very similar to doing martial arts.

Anyway, in addition to the recommendation to find an instructor, someone did suggest that I look up Steve Cotter’s video instruction, and I have found some of his videos on YouTube, and they really are rather good.

Steve Cotter Kettlebell Swings Instructional Video

This jumps right in to the double swing, using 2 kettlebells. We have already shown single kettlebell double arm swings here. Steve Cotter teaches well, the advice to make sure that you are controlling the weight, not the other way round, is fundamental to kettlebell safety.

The Kettlebell 1 Arm Hang Clean

One big powerful movement to lift the kettlebell from the ground to the rack position (kettlebell held on your chest).

Steve Cotter Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Instructional Video

We have already looked at the Turkish Get Up, but this is such a good and clear instructional video that we wanted to share Steve Cotter’s advice too.

Kettlebell Overhead Snatch

I did this move for the first time this week. The kettlebell snatch is one bug movement starting with the kettlebell on the floor and then lifting until it is above your head.

There are two variations to the snatch; the first is lifting the kettlebell straight up in the straight line, trying not to swing the kettlebell out away from your body, so that as it reaches your upper chest you turn the hand in and thrust your arm up.

The second is a swinging movement to lift the bell, which is more an extended single arm swing which then locks out at the end. In both cases it should be one clean movement.

Steve Cotter here explains it as a swing, clean and jerk, all put together.

I hope you enjoy these kettlebell workouts. Steve Cotter does a great job at explaining the various kettlebell movements, although it is still better to get along to a class or find a private instructor as correct form is very important with kettlebells.

What are the Health Benefits of Running?

Running is great. It is possibly the most efficient way to get fit and lose weight and could also be the most natural form of exercise. It is thought that running in a pack, pretty much at a marathon pace, is a natural way to run. Our human ancestors used to hunt on foot and also covered large distances while following migrating herbivores much in the same way that wolves and large cats do.

Running seems to have got a bad press over the years. There is the old saying the “the man who invented jogging died jogging which just about every lazy person uses as an excuse not to exercise. Yes, some people really do think that exercise is bad for us!

Then there is the well known fact that the chap who ran the first marathon died in the process. It was in his honor that people started running marathons, or maybe the Roman government decided that its messengers needed to be fitter so forced them to compete in regular marathon races for amusement. Who knows? Either way, running gets a bad rep because if this.

Here are the main benefits of running:

  • A free way to get fit – no gym membership required
  • A natural way to get fit – no tuition required
  • A quick way to get fit – running really does work!
  • A great way to manage your weight – cardio is the best way to lose weight
  • It makes your heart stronger
  • It reduces bad cholesterol
  • It increases your lung capacity
  • It strengthens your legs
  • It helps you improve digestion and nutrient uptake
  • It improves memory and mood, especially when you run outdoors

Those are the main benefits of running. As you can see it really is the best way to exercise. All you need to get started is a safe route to follow, a good pair of running shoes and day light (or good street lighting in the evening).

You need to be safe when running outdoors though and there are several factors to consider such as:

  • Is your road safe to run on, are there pavements?
  • Is it well lit to prevent tripping and other injuries?
  • Is it a safe area to run in your neighborhood? 
  • Are you shoes good quality? (they do not have to be the best)
  • Wear reflective clothing at night so cars can see you

Running is a very rewarding way to get fit. As you improve you may also experience the “runners high” which is the feeling of pleasure you have when you have run a few miles and the endorphins start flowing.

It is mostly for this reason why I believe that running is the most natural way to get fit. Those endorphins are there for a reason – to encourage us to run more. If running was not to be encouraged it would not feel good.

Burn 500 Calories with this Home Workout

This intensive circuit has just four exercises, but you can burn 500 calories if done properly.

This is a classic 4 exercise circuit training workout which is designed for fitness and burns a lot of calories. Exercises done are cone lungesband chopsdumbbell squat presses, and mountain climbers.

The cone lunges work the legs really well with a lot of emphasis on the thighs. The band chops work the core and abdominals and are excellent for developing a flat stomach.

The dumbbell squat presses is a big move which sees you using your glutes (the largest muscle in the body) and shoulders. Shoulders are often neglected.

The mountain climbers work the legs and core and also build on the supporting muscles in the shoulders.

This workout is very simple, but allows you to burn fat and boost your metabolism. Aim to increase repetitions or time performing the exercise set in each workout.

Try to complete this circuit 4 times, taking at least 60 seconds for each exercise and testing a short period in between. The more circuits you do, the more fat you burn and the fitter you get.