Think about the last time you walked into a gym. Odds are you saw the same thing you’ve seen a hundred times before. The bench press and free weight section is packed to the brim with
men, boys lifting for 15 seconds, resting (read: flexing, talking, ogling girls, etc.) for 2 minutes. Then you’ve got your elliptical and treadmill ladies who spend 40, 50, 60+ minutes plodding along on their machine, the only thing changing is the pages of their US Weekly magazine as they casually flip through. Throw in a healthy portion of fillers, the people who just kind of mill around, check their phone, text their friends, wait in line for the water fountain, and you’ve got a pretty standard gym anywhere in America.
These people mentioned above usually spend more time at the gym than I do. This makes sense as most people think more time spent at the gym means they’ve worked harder. But like almost all things in life, it’s not about what you do, it’s about how you do it.
You’ve absolutely got to get yourself out of this cycle if you’re one of these people. The purpose of going to the gym is to make progress; there is no other reason to be at the gym. If you aren’t doing yourself any good, you’re simply wasting your time. Mentally, you may feel you are doing something right by going to the gym for 90 minutes a day, but if you look at yourself in the mirror and look pretty much the same as you did 6 months ago, you ain’t doing something right!
Check it out…if you want to look like Sally from accounting, do a Sally from accounting workout (you’ll find these scattered all over the internet). If you want to look like Ironwoman, Lokelani McMichael (or for you guys, Adrian Peterson) then you’ve got to do short, high-intensity, explosive workouts that replicate the training of professional athletes. Because you are going to be training at an elevated level, the amount of time spent in the gym can be drastically cut. IF you are going hard enough, workouts should never go beyond 45 minutes, and in many cases, 30 minutes is all you need. Think of every infomercial you’ve ever seen….they’re all promising better results in less time. Well, now you’ve got a non-gimmicky, sure-fire way to achieve better results in less time. Leave the 5 minute workout DVDs and thigh master for the wannabe’s.
Now, lets get into the nuts and bolts of this format of training. This type of workout will rely on three pillars; high- intensity interval training, explosive plyometric resistance training, and full-body supersets. The combination of all three results in a chemical response in your body that provides benefits unseen by standard training methods. The chemicals involved in this release are HGH (Human Growth Hormone), Testosterone, and IGF-1.
Many of you have submitted questions in the past about running long and slow, as you’ve heard that your body uses fat for fuel during long-duration exercise. While this is technically true, it doesn’t paint the full picture. For one, when you stop your long and slow training, your body instantly stops burning fat. This is because your heart rate hasn’t been elevated enough to raise your metabolism significantly enough to continue to burn calories. Even more alarming, long slow bouts of cardio signal the release of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a muscle killing chemical that eats up your lean muscle mass. Think about long-distance runners for a minute…they don’t exactly have muscular physiques, do they?
The key here is to train at an intensity that elevates your heart rate, so your metabolism continues to burn calories well after your workout has ended. During the workout you will be burning carbohydrates for energy. Afterwards, your body will switch to burning fat. As your heart rate soars, you begin to struggle, and your oxygen demands sky-rocket. As you inhale more air to meet the needs of your body, your metabolism begins to rise. This phenomenon is known as EPOC, or post-exercise oxygen consumption.
Since your carb stores have been depleted during your workout, your body turns to fat stores after your workout to bring your body back to a normal resting state. The amount of work required to take your body from all out exertion to a normal resting rate is significant, which is why your body continues to burn calories well after you are finished working out. Some studies suggest that EPOC will cause your body to keep an elevated fat-burning potential for up to 48 hours.
Want to make use of EPOC and HIIT? Try either of our jump rope workouts for maximum effect! Found here and here. If running/biking/swimming/etc is more your thing…try to perform your activity for 20-30 seconds at maximum effort followed by 45 seconds at half-speed. Repeat this for 20-30 minutes total.
Explosive Plyometric Resistance Training
When I look at an athlete like Adrian Peterson, or UFC fighter Georges St. Pierre, I see a lean, explosive individual. Their muscle fibers look like they are just itching to explode out of their bodies. Comparatively, when I look at a powerlifter like Mr. Olympia, Jay Cutler, I see insane size, but I don’t get the same feeling of speed, athleticism, and explosion that the bodies of the other two convey. Since I’m guessing most of our readers are more concerned with building a lean, athletic appearance, and not so concerned with building 22 inch biceps, training in a way that lends itself towards your goals, is paramount.
With that said, the old format of lifting as heavy as possible, then resting for minutes on end before repeating is great if you want to look like Mr. Jay Cutler. Bodybuilders use this technique to add massive size gains to their frames. If you want to look like a lean, mean, fighting machine, try supersetting standard movements with explosive plyometric exercises.
Use heavy weights (3-4 sets, 6-8 reps) with this technique and limit your rest time (hopefully to nothing!) between the secondary exercise in the pair.
Some examples of training combos would include:
- Barbell Incline Bench Press supersetted with explosive 20 Mountain Climbers
- Bentover Barbell Row supersetted with 15 Squat Jumps
- Lat Pulldowns supersetted with 12 Burpees
- Front Barbell Squats supersetted with 10 Plyometric Pushups
Make a concerted effort to put maximum effort into the plyometric portion of the superset. Go about completing these exercises in a calculated, methodical manner. Think explosive. Think max intensity.
This type of training will cause your body to wonder what the heck is going on. Your heart rate is going to soar, hormones are going to be released in far greater quantity, and EPOC is going to come on in full effect. All in all, you’ve just done more for your body than any of those other people spending three times as long in the gym.
This next piece of advice is great for both men and women, but all you brodies out there, pay special attention. Whenever I see guys at the gym, they are often supersetting between two exercises, hitting the same body part. Think, military press and front dumbbell raises. This is a fantastic way to add size and strength, and is a technique used by many bodybuilders. However, as I mentioned earlier, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess most of you aren’t body builders. This type of supersetting doesn’t do much for your metabolism. In order to continue to build that muscle, while at the same time burning fat, go for full-body supersets.
By combining upper and lower body movements, with adequate intensity, you will cause your body to release greater amounts of HGH, testosterone, and IGF-1, than if you were to stick to the same body part supersetting you’re probably used to.
The release of these chemicals does wonders for those wanting to add lean muscle mass to their frames. As an added bonus, the fat burning effects of EPOC (which you will experience if you are maintaining the right intensity between upper/lower body movements) is going to shred you up at the same time. No more weight training PLUS cardio days at the gym. Knock it all out in one intense workout.
To get the full benefits from this type of training, make sure you go heavy on the weights. Aim for 6-8 reps per exercise and use compound movements whenever possible. A good full-body routine would include the following:
- Wide Grip Pullups supersetted with Pushups
- Military Press supersetted with Deadlifts
- Bench Press supersetted with Barbell Squats
- Close Grip Bench Press supersetted with Barbell Clean and Press
- Dumbbell Snatch supersetted with Box Jumps
In closing, standard isolation exercises, long and low-intensity cardio, and long rest periods are great for bodybuilders. However, the fact is, 99.9% of you aren’t bodybuilders. You’re regular people who simply want to add muscle, lose fat, and look great under your clothes. Long, lean, and athletic. I know exactly how you feel. In order to look that way, you must train that way. Get yourself in gear and begin using the methods laid out in this article. Stay tuned, because our next write-up is going to feature more advanced technique which combines all three methods into one insane workout. Happy lifting!