Fix chronic back pain without doctors or medicine.

I used to have fairly chronic lower back pain.

Do not underestimate the importance of core strength. A weak core leads to bad posture, and injuries, as we age. Posture has incredible downstream effects for the entire body. Ever lift something over your head to reach a high shelf, or bend down to get some medium sized object, just to tweak your back or stretch something the wrong way? That’s the result of weak core and bad posture. Trust me, you don’t want that.

A bad back can be crippling. It can really have an impact on your entire life. I know, I used to hurt my back a lot. Complaining about back pain was something I was prepared to do for the rest of my life. It happened so frequently, it was almost “normal”. Scary thought huh? Especially at my young age.

I used to be scared of deadlifts. Sometimes I would try them, and end up injuring myself again.

But, after some reading and re-motivation, I decided to try it again and make them a regular part of my lifting routine. Boy am I glad I did!

After lots of slow, careful progression and attention to good form, I was able to build my deadlift up to over 300 lbs. Mind you, this has taken me a couple years, and a few set backs. But the fruits of my labor have ripened.

The benefits of zero back pain, and the ability to lift almost ANYTHING I need to, without fear of injury, is priceless! My posture is great, and it shows in my outward appearance, the appearance of greater confidence!

I never have back pain, even after sitting for 8 hours a day at my desk job. This is incredibly important, especially for all you desk-jockies out there with chronic low back pain. Strength and posture is everything. Especially as you age. Deadlift. Do it!

Deadlifts are super important. They are one of the major lifts that promote muscle growth and strength throughout your entire body. They support the core, legs, shoulders, and even grip strength. Everyone’s goal should be to deadlift at least their own bodyweight. That, I would say, is a fair assessment of good health and strength. If you can at least lift your own bodyweight in the big lifts (bench, squat, deadlift, pullup) you’re golden. Go for it!

True, when I started lifting I would hurt my back doing deadlifts. But I also hurt my back in other lifts as well. Overhead press, squat, even bench. Why? Because my core was weak. I would strain my back to overcompensate for the fact that I was just lifting more than my core could properly support, and I would get hurt. I’d have to take a break from lifting to heal the injury, and inevitably end up right back where I started.

What was the problem? Poor form. Poor form because I was trying to lift too much weight. I wasn’t adapted to it yet. I didn’t allow myself to progress at the proper weight.

A lot of folks make this mistake. They go too big, too soon, and hurt themselves. Then they convince themselves that “this type of lift is just not for me”, or “I don’t really need it”.

The fix? Start light. This is way more effective for newcomers than just loading the bar to a dangerous weight. Start at a light enough weight so you can build neuromuscular adaptation, and then strength, to hold the proper form. If you try a deadlift, and you can’t keep your back straight, its too heavy. GO SLOW AND LIGHT. Form is everything here.

Slow progresstion, attention to proper form, and patience are key. Once you build up your core strength and the ability to lift heavy, say bye-bye to back pain!


It’s way more complicated than just “burning calories”…

…especially if you’re not working out the right way.

It’s frustrating to see people using those heart rate monitors and digital calorie counters in the gym. Are those things even accurate?? I think all they do is measure heart rate and make an estimate, which doesn’t even take into account what type of exercise you were doing, whether it was sprinting, cardio, or weight lifting, whether it was heavy and intense, etc. Lets get real. Stop trying to burn as many calories as possible in the gym. It’s a hopeless endeavor, even if calories burned even mattered…

It does not matter how many calories you burn while working out. That’s not how it works. If it were, once you ate a meal after your workout, you would have effectively undone all those grueling hours of useless boring cardio. Not only that, but hours of cardio has been shown to actually hinder long-term fat loss results, because it becomes a chronic stressor of the bad kind, increasing cortisol and inflammatory markers perpetually. Eventually you end up with that beer-gut or cortisol-gut as the inflammation catches up with you.

If we work out effectively, we will cause an adaptation. The correct type of exercise actually changes the way your body works. It normalizes your body fat regulating hormones, and makes better use of the nutrients you eat. You become more efficient, and along with the proper diet, become adapted to burning primarily fat for energy, instead of glucose. The best type of exercise actually raises your energy expenditure for days afterwards, increasing fat oxidation as well.

What type of exercise causes these beneficial changes? It’s the type of exercise that hits all the muscle fibers, not just the slow twitch type 1 muscles we use during endurance exercise.

mark post 2 pic 1 Copy

In order to cause the adaptation we are looking for, to increase post-workout energy expenditure and fat oxidation, we must exhaust all the muscle fibers, type one and type two.

First, high-intensity exercise training induces secretion of lipolytic [fat-burning] hormones including growth hormone and epinephrine, which may facilitate greater post-exercise energy expenditure and fat oxidation. Second, it has been reported that under equivalent levels of energy expenditure high-intensity exercise training favors a greater negative energy balance compared to low-intensity exercise training.”

B.A. Irving, University of Virginia

That’s right. High-intensity training, NOT cardio. Doing high intensity training enacts the same cardiovascular benefits as hours of cardio, in less time, and with better long-term results for health and weight management.

The development of type 2b muscle fibers leads to a reduction in accumulated white adipose tissue and improvements in metabolic parameters independent of physical activity or changes in the level of food intake. These effects occur independently of muscle oxidative capacity and are associated with increases in fatty acid metabolism in liver…The results from the current study indicate that modest increases in type 2b skeletal muscle mass can have a profound systemic effect on whole-body metabolism and adipose mass.

The metabolic improvement in this model cannot be entirely explained by a reduction in fat-pad mass, indicating that type II muscle counteracts the actions of excess adipose tissue on whole-body metabolism. These findings indicate that type II muscle has a previously unappreciated role in regulating whole-body metabolism through its ability to alter the metabolic properties of remote tissues.

They also noted that these muscle fibers improved insulin sensitivity and caused reductions in blood glucose, insulin, and leptin levels, and that, these effects occurred despite a reduction in total physical activity. Sounds to me like we should get the heck off the treadmill (unless you’re sprinting on it).

When we do high-force and short-duration exercise we don’t exclusively work our type 2b fibers, we work all of our less forceful fibers and our type 2b fibers. We try to lift something heavy, and our muscles try to generate enough force with our weakest type 1 fibers first. Those do not generate enough force, so our muscles also activate our more forceful type 2a fibers to help. If that’s still not enough, we keep the type 1 and type 2a fibers going, and add the stronger type 2x fibers. Keep going and don’t stop working the other three, and bring in our most powerful type 2b fibers, until finally we reach what’s referred to as positive which we have absolutely exhausted all muscle fiber types to the point of being unable to lift another repetition. Thanks to this cumulative activation of all of our muscle fibers (known as orderly recruitment), we have caused an acute stressor which will cause our body to adapt. Here is where the magic happens! In the 6 days (at least) of recovery, your energy expenditure goes up, as well as fat oxidation, your muscles heal, you start to get leaner, and you grow stronger!

This is why olympic sprinters are lean and muscular, and long distance runners are frail, sick, and emaciated. This is why those lean ripped dudes at the gym never have to step foot on an elliptical machine. This is why Michael Phelps can eat 20K calories a day and stay ripped. This is why you only see tortured tired looking people on the treadmill who never seem to lose weight. This is why people who do CrossFit and olympic weightlifting are lean, mean, Paleo-eating machines.

Don’t want to get huge, bulky muscles? Don’t worry about it. It won’t happen unless you do steroids. Here’s why.

Myostatin (GDF-8), a member of the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) superfamily of secreted growth and differentiation factors, is a negative regulator of skeletal muscle growth. Loss of myostatin function is associated with an increase in muscle mass in mice, cows, and humans.

– M.N. Elkasrawy, Medical College of Georgia

That means that as you get more muscles, you naturally down-regulate your ability to gain more muscle, so that over time you get diminishing returns, until you eventually reach the physiological limit of your muscle-building capacity. For women, that’s pretty low. Same is true for a lot of guys too. Most of us just are not naturally able to build and maintain tons of muscle.

The base levels of myostatin and muscle in most women and most men make it impossible for them to naturally build bulky muscles. It does not matter how much resistance we use. The majority of us, especially women, do not have the genes to build bulky muscles via any form of exercise.

Those few people who are able to get big, they’re athletes, they naturally gravitate to sports, because their physiology allows them to build supernatural-ish capacity. If this was you, you’d know it. If you’re reading this, it’s pretty safe to say that you’re one of us normal folks.

What types of workouts do I do to stimulate all my muscle fibers?

Here’s an example of my most recent setup, scroll down the page in [this post].

Heavy weights, that cause positive failure. I use about 6-8 reps-to-failure on compound lifts, and about 8-12 reps-to-failure on isolation lifts. I work out 3 times a week, and I do the same exercises each monday, for example, to allow a full week of recovery for those muscle groups. I.e. Monday is squats, Wednesday is shoulders, Friday is back. Something like that. 

I do high intensity interval training about once a week. Windsprints on a bike or running. Doesn’t matter. This stuff is brilliantly better than any type of conventional cardio, and usually only takes about 15 or 20 minutes.

Lots of active recovery: walking, hiking, biking, etc. (Super low-level stuff has a lot of benefit too).

~ Dan

Related Posts:

It’s way more complicated than “counting calories”…

My Progress. Growing Triceps.

How does fat make you fat?

Time to jump off the conventional diet bandwagon. Then burn the wagon!

I talk to a lot of people about food and working out. It comes up all the time, no matter where you are.

And I’m not afraid to give people crap for feeding themselves poison.

I’m also not afraid to tell people what I think about conventional dieting or traditional “womens workouts” versus “mens workouts”. I don’t bullshit.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE food. I love eating (see? link, link). I love the food I cook. It’s delicious. It makes me feel really good. And I don’t have to eat all the time to enjoy myself. So I save money too!

Now to the meat of the issue (mmmm. meat!)

Conventional dieting doesn’t produce the right results. It doesn’t optimize health quite like a nutrient dense Paleo diet does. Conventional dieting also, for the most part especially where women are concerned (and I think they are the biggest victims of this) doesn’t advocate heavy weight lifting or the importance of lean muscle mass for long term health. Just. Look. Around.

To demonstrate what I mean I need pictures. So here’s some before/afters.

Well, they lost weight. That’s all well and good if your aim is to be nothing but skinny

For comparison, here’s a couple of examples of the proper way to do things. 

Ah, much better. Not only do these gals have great body composition and shape through attaining more muscle, but they set themselves up to maintan the good looks and optimal health for the long haul, as I’ve written about before, [here] and [here].

Note: I’m not advocating that a six pack for women is necessary. On the contrary, once women go below a certain BF% it can have deleterious health consequences, like no period or thyroid problems. 

It’s the overall picture we’re looking at, including the ability to lift heavy shit over your head! That’s phat! (and functional). Not just for the mechanical advantage it provides, but for the massive health advantage it provides.

In the first photo of the conventional calorie-cutters you’ll notice a few things right off the bat. There’s no definition. No real “figure”. Just kind of “stick figure”. Their skin kind of hangs there with no supporting background. No sense of that person being a strong, capable human being for a long long time. They have successfully attained a lower level of obesity.

If losing weight per se is your goal, you performed perfectly in this scenario. It’s a shame that this is the mainstream goal for women stuck following the conventional weight loss guidelines.

Why do women get treated so much differently in this regard? It puts them at such a disadvantage right from the get-go. The magazine bodies they oh-so hope to attain are unattainable via the conventional methods!

You see, we need to get away from the weight loss convention, and change the way we think. We need to think in terms of muscle first, in order to get rid of the excess fat, and keep it off.

Let’s do a Google image search for Weight Watchers results. Go ahead, click on it. Yes, there are a lot of good looking folks who made a lot of difference. But they just aren’t completely there yet. And chances are, since cutting calories per se, and starving yourself isn’t sustainable, ever, most of these folks will bounce back after they stop dieting. A compounding factor to that bounce-back is their lack of lean muscle, which, as I’ve written about before, [here] and [here] is vitally important to maintaining healthy weight, and providing the foundation for long term health and human ability.

How did the gals in the bottom photo do it?

A combination of eating only nutrient dense real food (i.e. Paleo diet) and lifting heavy weights (Crossfit for example). A quick Google image search reveals many many good looking people who crossfit. Everyone improves composition from the intense heavy lifting, but you see a combination effect as soon as Paleo diet is followed concurrently.

And a site I like to frequent, Mark’s Daily Apple. Here’s a plethora of success stories of Paleo dieters who lift heavy things. Even those people who chose not to lift heavy things have a better body composition than those conventional calorie-cutters above. Know why? 80% of body composition is determined by diet! Want more icing on the cake? Look how many of them are over the age of 50! Then look how many of them also cured their chronic health problems! I don’t know about you, but I fail to see an equivalent track record from Weight Watchers or anything similar.

A few seconds of looking at those photos, and you quickly realize that almost everyone else has been doing it all wrong.

For the love of Paleo! we gotta stop treating men’s and women’s health as different entities. We should all train equally hard and eat real nutrient dense food! It’s the only way.

If you care about your long term health, and want to optimize your life, don’t sell yourself short by looking for a quick-fix. Paleo is for life, because it’s sustainable for life. Same goes for lifting heavy weights. Muscle mass does not decline as a function of aging, it declines as a function of dis-use! THINK ABOUT IT!

~ Dan

Chosing the correct weight to recruit all muscle fibers

You ideally want to reach muscle failure within a certain timeframe, to exhaust all the motor units (different types of muscle fibers). Usually that’s about 60 seconds to failure.

Here’s an excellent post from Conditioning Research that does a great job of explaining the importance of this concept. (The bolding is mine.)

“…The aim is to progress through all 3 motor unit types quickly enough to recruit them all…..but not so quickly that only the fast twitch fibres get the bulk of the stimulation……and not so slowly that the slow / intermediate twitch units can recover and recycle back into the effort, so the fast ones are never called on.

So you do not want steady state easy cardio – that only hits the slow twitch units.  Even when some get tired they recover and come back into play and you never tap into the intermediate or fast units.

And you do not want a really heavy weight where you fail immediately or after one or two reps.  Then you need to call on all of the units – slow, intermediate and fast – to fire in tandem to shift it and as soon as the fast units are exhausted you are finished without really working the others.

You need the “goldilocks” load –  enough to involve the slow units …. and then as they drop out to call in the intermediate ones and then as they fall off the fast ones come in until they are exhausted…”

Low reps and heavy weight is best

Some more great research I just came across. They are looking into two types of fatigue that occurr during training, peripheral and central fatigue.

Here’s how it was described at Conditioning Research

What I thought was neat about the study was the distinction between “peripheral” and “central” fatigue: the former is the reduced ability of your muscle itself to contract, and the latter is a reduction in the signal from your brain to your muscle demanding contraction. If you pick up a heavy (above critical torque) dumbbell and lift it until you can’t anymore, the limiting factor appears to be peripheral fatigue. Your muscles are simply no longer capable of contracting powerfully enough to lift the weight.In contrast, if you lift a lighter (below critical torque) dumbbell to failure, your muscles themselves fatigue to a much lesser extent, suggesting that fatigue somewhere in your brain or central nervous system is the problem.

AH HAH! As I’ve said before, and I will say again, lifting heavy weights at a handfull of reps, is the best and fastest way to make progress. It allows us to fatigue the muscle itself, “peripheral” fatigue, which triggers an adaptive change, forcing muscle growth.

If you don’t fatigue the muscle to the max in a short enough time, you aren’t actually hitting the “wall” of your strength. You aren’t actually hitting the physical limit of your muscle’s ability to lift that weight.

High reps causes the “central” fatigue, that of the CNS and the brain. Your muscles can’t lift the weight any more, not because you have hit the physical limit of the muscle’s strength, but because your brain is stopping it from contracting. This does not cause the same “stressor” or adaptation as “peripheral” fatigue, therefore, once you have healed and try the lift next week, your threshold to lift a heavier weight is diminished.

This has been my experience in real life too. Max muscle damage, by reaching actual limits of the muscle’s strength, causes larger adaptations.

The Wrong Way

Lot’s of folks still get it wrong. Which amazes me, because we have the interwebs, an immense, wonderful, easy-to-access plethora of information. It makes it amazingly easy to make sense of things.

Don’t worry, this entire post isn’t a rant, just the top half. At the end I’ll discuss “The Right Way”, and how to put it all together. Everything I’ve learned in a nice group of bullet points.

And it is easy. Just take a little time out of your busy day from watching television or stuffing your face, and read a few arguments, from both sides of the field, on whatever topic you think is controversial or just doesn’t make a whole lotta sense to you. Most people with a shred of common sense should have the ability to figure out the stronger argument, without getting caught up in the argumentum ad verecundiam.

I take it upon myself to be better than. I like to learn from my own mistakes, but I also learn a lot from everyone elses mistakes. To pay attention to certain things, tells you a lot about people.

Let me explain what I mean.

At my gym, Planet Fitness, (I know I know, why the hell do I go there? It’s cheap) there are lots of folks who, day after day, like (I use the word like lightly) to get up on the cardio torture devices and trudge away for hours, sweating and panting. Then after they go home and stuff themselves with carbs, or whatever. And they come back, dragging themselves into the gym, and do it all again. They’ve been told that they are doing it right, and despite the total lack of results (just look at most of ’em.) they keep telling themselves it’s right. But they’ll never touch a set of free-weights. And they’ll never change their crap diet. Why not? Are they scared that they’ll blow up and look like a body builder over night? Are they scared that they’ll look inexperienced? Look at the folks who are doing free weights, and clearly have been doing them for a while. There’s even some chicks doing heavy lifting in there, and they definitely have got it working for them, and they are not huge bulky body builders.

My biggest problem with those treadmill junkies is not that they’re out of shape or whatever. It’s that they haven’t asked themselves the difficult question: “WHY IS THIS NOT WORKING FOR ME?”

The answer, is simple: “YOU HAVE TO USE THE INTERWEBS!” See? Learning is fun!

Then hopefully you might come across this blog, or the blog of one my comrades. It might raise questions, and cause you to ask even more questions. And then, holy cow, we’re learning something new!

Then the other morning, driving to work, I see a woman power walking. She’s pregnant too, very pregnant. And in shape. I said to myself, “now there’s someone who’s getting it right.” Who clearly isn’t listening to conventional wisdom, sitting around, chugging gallons of chocolate and ice cream. But it made me think about the 20-something pregnant girl at my work. She is also very pregnant. She can barely walk, she actually waddles, can’t take the stairs, and complains about it, or actually celebrates it with her little group of girls, as if being fat and weak is a normal part of being pregnant? She even started waddling around after only a few months of pregnancy, which is even more odd. Is it all mental??

And she put on weight too, I mean extra. Used to be actually good-looking and in shape too. Always talking about how she’s “eating for two”. Yah, if you’re putting on lots of excess body fat, you’re eating too much. Period. And it’s all junk, chocolate candies, donuts, Fruity Pebbles!! WTF!!?? You aren’t eating for two full-grown adults! You should be eating for a fetus and one sedentary lazy weak girl who spends life at a desk! Do you honestly think “cravings” and actually being hungry are the same thing? Or is it just an excuse to poison yourself and your fetus, and get wicked out of shape? Good luck losing that “baby weight”, or I-binged-and-gorged-on-junk-food ‘cus I had “cravings” weight.

Perhaps you might want to think about how what you put into your body affects your body, and what is growing inside it?

Again, the answer to this conundrum is simple: “Use the interwebs” and ask the tough questions. Maybe you’ll come across Chris Kresser’s The Healthy Baby Code, and you (god forbid) might just learn something!

Science isn’t that scary, and it isn’t difficult to understand. We all had statistics in high school right? Its pretty easy to figure out if we’re looking at a study, whether or not the analysis makes sense. Even if stats isn’t your thing, from a common sense standpoint, the truth always floats to the surface, and some arguments just make more sense.

It’s also easy to figure out if what you are doing is actually working. How long have you been doing it? How do you feel? How do your clothes fit? Are you strong enough to lift your own body weight? Have you reached your goals or are you progressing consistently towards that goal? Has progress stalled or is it time to change something up? At a certain point, science isn’t all you need in order to successfully apply something to your life. Many times self experimentation and common sense, (with an idea of biology helps) will be your best friends.

The Right Way. Putting it all together.

Do you ask the tough questions? How has self-experimentation worked for you? Have you actually done everything you can? Discuss!

Deadlift technique

Deadlifts are one of the fundamental lifts that everyone should become comfortable doing at least once a week.

Like squats, overhead presses, and other multi-joint lifts, deadlifts recruit the core muscles. Having a strong core is crucial. Deadlifts will make your core and primary muscles stronger. They also do a good job of shaping your legs and butt!

If you want strong, good looking legs that can power up hills and keep you going on long walks, heavy deadlifts and squats should be a regular part of your routine.

Always start with the bar on the floor. Here’s how to Deadlift in 5 easy steps:

  1. Stand with the bar above the center of your feet– your stance should be a bit more narrow than shoulder-width to give your arms room.
  2. Grab the bar overhand so your arms are vertical to the floor. If the bar is heavy, you can use lifting straps, or place one hand over-hand, and the other hand under-hand, to prevent the bar from “rolling” out of your grip. Notice the shoulder blade position in the picture, relative to the vertical line. The ideal position is to have your shoulder blades behind the bar (right image).

Proper Shoulder Position During Deadlift

  1. Bend through your knees until your shins hit the bar which must remain above the middle of your feet.
  2. Lift your chest but don’t squeeze your shoulder-blades like on Squats. Just put your shoulders back & down, head inline with rest of your spine. Keep your back arched back or straight, but NEVER let your back arch forward!
  3. Pull – keep the bar close to your body, roll it over your knees and thighs until your hips and knees are locked. Do NOT lean backwards at the top. Imagine “humping” the bar near the top of the lift.

proper deadlift technique

And that’s all there is to it. Lower the bar by pushing your hips back first, and then bend your knees once the bar reaches knee level (NOT before otherwise the bar will hit your knees).

As always, chose a weight that will make you reach muscular failure within 4 to 8 reps. Since deadlifts are such a form-crucial movement, you don’t want too high a rep range, since fatigue from lactic acid will have you losing form; poor form is just a recipe for injury. Rest about 3 minutes between each set.

You may like to check out:

Why women should deadlift

Is high-rep weight training a waste of time?

Thoughts on High Intensity Interval Training

How bad is saturated fat and cholesterol?

Get muscles, burn fat faster

Throw the scale out the window!

Your goal should be to get lean and burn fat, NOT to lose weight.

When you are lean and have put on some sexy muscle, you will weigh more. And you will be healthier. Who knows, you might even be able to help grampa off the floor, instead of having to call for help!

Relying on a scale to measure your progress is bull.

“Gaining, not losing weight, makes you sexy.”

“…Probably due to the unreasonable and (if you asked me) utterly unsexy ideal of the “beautiful” female model, whose major features are skinniness and a severe lack of skeletal muscle tissue, this obsession not with how much, but rather with how little you weigh, is rampant within the community of female fitness junkies. Based on the misunderstanding that weight loss (at least for females) would equal improvements in body composition, thousands of women starve themselves into what Dr. Connelly often refers to as an “reduced obese state” …”

Read the rest of this article.


Resistance Training to Momentary Muscular Failure Improves Cardiovascular Fitness in Humans

Resistance Training to Momentary Muscular Failure Improves Cardiovascular Fitness in Humans: A Review of Acute Physiological Responses and Chronic Physiological Adaptations

Need I say more?

Abstract: Training to Momentary Muscular Failure Improves Cardiovascular Fitness in Humans: A Review of Acute Physiological Responses and Chronic Physiological Adaptations. JEPonline 2012;15(3):53- 80. Research demonstrates resistance training produces significant improvement in cardiovascular fitness (VO2 max, economy of movement). To date no review article has considered the underlying physiological mechanisms that might support such improvements. This article is a comprehensive, systematic narrative review of the literature surrounding the area of resistance training, cardiovascular fitness and the acute responses and chronic adaptations it produces. The primary concern with existing research is the lack of clarity and inappropriate quantification of resistance training intensity. Thus, an important consideration of this review is the effect of intensity. The acute metabolic and molecular responses to resistance training to momentary muscular failure do not differ from that of traditional endurance training. Myocardial function appears to be maintained, perhaps enhanced, in acute response to high intensity resistance training, and contraction intensity appears to mediate the acute vascular response to resistance training. The results of chronic physiological adaptations demonstrate that resistance training to momentary muscular failure produces a number of physiological adaptations, which may facilitate the observed improvements in cardiovascular fitness. The adaptations may include an increase in mitochondrial enzymes, mitochondrial proliferation, phenotypic conversion from type IIx towards type IIa muscle fibers, and vascular remodeling (including capillarization). Resistance training to momentary muscular failure causes sufficient acute stimuli to produce chronic physiological adaptations that enhance cardiovascular fitness. This review appears to be the first to present this conclusion and, therefore, it may help stimulate a changing paradigm addressing the misnomer of ‘cardiovascular’ exercise as being determined by modality.

Exercise intensity matters more than total calories burned. Men and women, take note.

The article cited (bottom of page) is of great importance and ties in with my discussions about the important role of muscle mass for health and longevity in men and women.

As conventional wisdom dictates, and seems to prevail unfortunately, lots of women avoid heavy lifting, to their disadvantage. Many overweight men are guilty of this as well, chosing instead to trudge away on the eliptical machine for hours a day.

As it turns out, more intense exercise, the type that uses heavy weights and lower reps, or high intensity interval training, actually produces better results in terms of fat loss. It also helps create a “reserve capacity“, that is, heightens your ability to keep that fat from coming back. Your little cheat meals and diet-divergences here and there won’t matter as much, since muscle has a greater capacity to store excess energy in the form of glycogen.

This is often why you see celebrities (Oprah is a prime example) bounce back and forth between fad diet programs. While every few years you see their weight fluctuate. What they were able to lose in fat, they did not build up reserve capacity in muscle, and as soon as they got off the “diet train” (most likely because low-fat high-carb isn’t really sustainable), they become fat again.


This is because these fad diets are usually all some version of the same thing; the high-carb, low-fat standard junk food american diet. And they all advocate lots and lots of boring, grueling cardio, and lots of light weight training with little pink weights. Of course, none of this creates lasting results, not to mention meaningful change to your body composition. Stop listening to the commercial interests, and start listening to common sense.

The Study

This article looked at twenty-seven middle-aged (51+/- 9 yrs) obese women with metabolic syndrome. The subjects underwent either 1) no intervention, 2) low intensity exercise below the lactate threshold, or 3) high intensity exercise above the lactate threshold.

Note: High intensity exercise is characterized by producing pyruvate from anaerobic metabolism more quickly than the mitochondria can use it. Pyruvate builds up and is acted upon by lactate dehydrogenase to produce lactic acid. This places you above the lactate threshold.

The results of the study are very clear. The high intensity group significantly reduced total abdominal fat, abdominal subcutaneous fat, and abdominal visceral fat. There were no changes observed in the non-exercise group or the low intensity group.

Note: The results are correlated with exercise intensity, NOT total calories burned! Each exercise session was controlled to expend the same number of calories, and based on total calories burned, the low intensity group had the “advantage” since they worked out more days per week. Despite this “advantage”, the low intensity group did not lose fat. This is a key concept: when it comes to losing body fat you cannot achieve it by “burning calories” in an attempt to influence the calories in/calories out equation.

Fat will be mobilized by depleting glycogen out of the muscle, creating a need for replenishment via the insulin receptors. As insulin sensitivity improves, serum insulin levels drop and body fat can be mobilized. As this scenario is repeated, triglycerides can be tapped from fat cells to supply energy for high intensity exertion, compounding the fat loss effect.

The subjects weren’t lifting weights, but it doesn’t matter

From a metabolic standpoint, what is important is that the intensity was high enough to exceed the lactate threshold, and that’s what this study was looking at. Our understanding of how to exceed the lactate threshold gives us a number of valuable tools. We can utilize high intensity interval training, like sprints or tabata intervals, to rapidly deplete glycogen and create growth spurts while enhancing aerobic capacity. We can also utilize intense weight lifting to failure with heavy weights, to minimize time in the gym, deplete glycogen, increase numbers of fat-burning mitochondria within the muscle, and increase our “reserve capacity” with great looking lean-mass. If the goal is to look good naked and be healthy for life, these tools should be your mainstay.

Women, take note

This is especially important for you, simply due to the fact that most women have less lean mass than men, your capacity for glycogen storage is at a disadvantage. As a result, your glycogen stores become full much more easily and quickly from sugars and carbohydrates. This makes women much more prone to the throws of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. Only high intensity exercise activates the adrenaline cascade that mobilizes huge amounts of glycogen out of the muscle. When you work out hard, by lifting heavy to failure or doing high intensity interval training (HIIT), you are activating the process that empties the muscles of excess glucose, creating a scenario where glucose will have to be replenished within the muscle. This process is controlled by insulin and its receptors. By making room for more glucose in the muscle, you increase the sensitivity of these receptors. Glucose is then less likely to become stored as fat.

None of this matters….

unless you have the proper diet. No amount of training or exercise can undo a poor diet. Anything derived from the seed of plants (grains) is high in rapidly absorbable sugars. Also, seeds of plants contain phytotoxins (lectins, phytic acid, gluten) which help to protect the plant’s reproductive elements from being eaten. These toxins keep animals from reproducing and thriving by disrupting their hormone function. Commercially processed vegetable oils (sunflower, corn, canola, etc) oxidize extremely easily, because of their high polyunsaturated fat content, and cause systemmic inflammation that leads to the disruprion of hormones and body systems, and causes numerous diseases. We may be able to “get by” eating things like this, but it’s definitely not optimal for long term health.

Effect of Exercise Training Intensity on Abdominal Visceral Fat and Body Composition. Irving BA, et al. Published in Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Oct 8.

You might also like to read:

Is high-rep weight training a waste of time?

Thoughts on High Intensity Interval Training

How bad is saturated fat and cholesterol?

Why women should deadlift

Get muscles, burn fat faster

Do your own epidemiological studies

Take a look around where you are.

Next time you’re at they gym on a busy day, take a look at the cardio area. You know, the zone cordoned off that is full of silly machines where people slave away for hours, sweating and generally looking miserable. Trudging through their workout, trying desperately to lose that belly. Do they look happy? Do they look relaxed? Do they look lean and in shape? Or are most of them muscle-less, weak, tired, zombies?

Then, take a look at the free-weight area of the gym. There are a couple types of people you should notice:

The first type will be running around, vigorously high-repping out a few sets of this, then running to the next machine or set of weights to do another high-repping set of that. They’re trying to keep their HR elevated in the futile persuit of fat-burning. What’s their body composition look like? Do they look relaxed? Are they in great shape? Or do they look a lot like the people in the cardio area?

The second type of person I want to you look for are the ones who are hanging out talking to each other. Casually conversing as they rest in between sets. When they feel ready, they get a heavy weight, and do a handfull of reps. These people look like they are working really hard to push that weight to failure. They usually have the best body composition. They are relatively lean. These are men AND women. They spend less time running around sweating, and a little more time relaxing and having a good time, trying to beat one another’s best lift, or beat a personal record. These are the people I respect, because they got it right, whether they know it or not.

I don’t know about you, but I know where I want to be.

When it comes right down to it

Most people have no idea what they are doing in terms of eating right or working out right. They just blindly follow the conventional wisdom in the hopes that “Eat less. Move more” is actually all it takes. They avoid fat and salt, snack all day on grains, and don’t get enough complete proteins. Then they slave away on the treadmill for hours a day…

I don’t see this working for anyone in my little corner of the world. How long does it take ’til you realize, “this isn’t working”?

Then there are the few that understand. That’s us.

[Strethcing is for dummies], [cardio is for dummies], [high-rep weight training a waste of time], [heavy strength training is a required aspect of long term health for everybody!]


Is high-rep weight training a waste of time?

Nice study just came across. Looks like gains in strength and size can be similar, whether you lift light weights to failure, or heavy weights to failure.

Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men

“We have reported that the acute post-exercise increases in muscle protein synthesis rates, with differing nutritional support, are predictive of longer-term training-induced muscle hypertrophy. Here, we aimed to test whether the same was true with acute exercise-mediated changes in muscle protein synthesis. Eighteen men (21±1 yr, 22.6±2.1 kg∙m-2 means±SE) had their legs randomly assigned to two of three training conditions that differed in contraction intensity (% of maximal strength [1RM]) or contraction volume (1 or 3 sets of repetitions): 30%-3, 80%-1 and, 80%-3. Subjects trained each leg with their assigned regime for a period of 10wk, 3 times/wk. We made pre- and post-training measures of strength, muscle volume by magnetic resonance (MR) scans, as well as pre- and post-training biopsies of the vastus lateralis, and a single post-exercise (1h) biopsy following the first bout of exercise, to measure signalling proteins. Training-induced increases in MR-measured muscle volume were significant (P<0.01), with no difference between groups: 30%-3 = 6.8±1.8%, 80%-1 = 3.2±0.8%, and 80%-3= 7.2±1.9%, P=0.18. Isotonic maximal strength gains were not different between 80%-1 and 80%-3, but were greater than 30% -3 (P=0.04), whereas training-induced isometric strength gains were significant but not different between conditions (P =0.92). Biopsies taken 1h following the initial resistance exercise bout showed increased phosphorylation (P<0.05) of p70S6K only in the 80%-1 and 80%-3 conditions. There was no correlation between phosphorylation of any signalling protein and hypertrophy. In accordance with our previous acute measurements of muscle protein synthetic rates a lower load lifted to failure resulted in similar hypertrophy as a heavy load lifted to failure.”

Seems to me if this is true, there would be no reason to lift light little weights for high reps. It just takes too long! (unless you like sitting there, wasting your time…)

Since the point-of-failure (where you can’t possibly physically do one more rep) is where muscular growth is initiated, the best choice of action is to hit that failure point as quickly as possible, and just get it over with! Lift heavy. Lift for a handfull of reps. Make sure you hit failure!

I find it interesting when I see folks (mostly women) in the gym lifting puny little 5 pound weights, bicep curls or whatever. They sit there for minutes, repping these weights out, and not even going to failure, but just stopping short of tiredness (or boredom!).

They are wasting so much time.

They are not hitting failure, therefore progress is slowed.

They are more or less doing “cardio”, further hindering progress through hightened cortisol and overuse of the aerobic pathway. [Read my post on the usefulness of cardio]

We need to stop looking at fitness from a man’s way vs. a woman’s way, and start looking at it from a practical standpoint. Men and women should not train that much differently. We all have the same goals, to lose fat, get shaped, and look good naked.

The fastest way to do that is to give up your stigma against heavy weight training, and just go for it. It’s the fastest way (with the proper diet, of course) to burn fat and shape your body the way you want. Muscle is the most metabolically expensive thing in your body, and is responsible for burning the most fat. It also provides a metabolic reserve, which keeps you resistant to disease and illness long into old age, and it keeps you from “bouncing back” to your previous body weight (see metabolic reserve). Plus it just looks good! Because let’s face it, Which would you rather have?











Fix your shin splints

Most of this has to do with running, but it’ll help with your walking shin splints also.

I think the first thing you’d want to try, and the easiest, is to go with minimal shoes, like I wear, so they don’t interfere with natural movement.
1. Learn to not be a heel striker when running. land midfoot to forefoot.
2. Therefore, wearing minimalist shoes or barefoot is best, as “running shoes” and anything with a heel or too much cushion enables an artificially wider gait, enabling you to heel strike = BAD.
Minimalist shoes makes natural movement possible and strengthens your arch, and the other foot muscles. (Think about it. An arch support is like a cast. What happens to your arm muscle after it’s been in a cast for a whole month? It atrophies. When your arch isn’t asked to do it’s job by supporting your body, it will atrophy. What a great gig DR Scholls has set up, he sells products that perpetuate the symptoms they claim to fix!)
3. Don’t over-stride. Land with your feet closer to underneath your hips, not with your feet landing ahead of your hips.
4. Don’t push off with the toes. Learn to move at the hips.
Look into pose running technique. (far right image)
HMGS: Strike a Pose

Guest post: The importance of pull-ups.

DSC 0424This is a guest post from Al Kavadlo of

If you’re like me, part of the appeal of Primal living is the simplicity of it all. Modern society has a funny way of making things more complicated than they need to be. In studying the intricacies of healthy eating and proper exercise, we often get lost in the details and miss the big picture. You don’t need to know about antioxidants in order to know that blueberries are good for you. Likewise, you don’t need a degree in anatomy or kinesiology in order to implement a safe and effective fitness program. Unfortunately, much of the fitness industry is designed to make you feel like being healthy is a complicated and difficult objective. Modern gyms are equipped with lots of expensive, high-tech machinery in order to give the illusion that complicated exercise contraptions are more effective than timeless bodyweight movements requiring only minimal equipment. The irony is that many of these facilities, in spite of having three different types of elliptical trainers, dozens of different selectorized strength training stations and (my favorite in terms of the dollars-to-dumbness ratio) the vibrating power plate, lack the one piece of fitness equipment that I actually deem essential: the humble pull-up bar.


Pull-ups work your entire upper body, especially the muscles of your back, as well as your abs and your biceps. Thanks to pull-ups, I haven’t felt the need for crunches or bicep curls in years and I don’t expect to ever again. In spite of this, my abs and biceps are strong and well developed. Pull-up bar training is essential for the simple reason that gravity only works in one direction. If all you do for your upper body is push-ups and other floor work, you may develop a muscular imbalance, which can lead to poor posture, shoulder pain or worse. You need to pull against resistance as well to avoid these pitfalls.

Whether or not you are strong enough to do a pull-up, a pull-up bar is still the best piece of fitness equipment you could ever own. If you aren’t ready for pull-ups yet, there are three primary exercises that you can do on an overhead bar to help you get there: flex hangs, negative pull-ups and dead hangs.

Flex Hangs

DSC 0626

A flex hang involves holding yourself at the top of a pull-up with your chin over the bar. It is best to start by using an underhand (chin-up) grip. Use a bench or a partner to help you get in position and then simply try to stay up. Think about squeezing every muscle in your entire body. If you can hold this position for even a second on your initial attempt, you are off to a good start.

Negative Pull-ups

DSC 0445

Once you can hold the flex hang for several seconds, you’re ready to start working on negative pull-ups, which just means lowering yourself down slowly from the top position. In the beginning, it might be very difficult to perform a controlled negative, but with time you will be able to make your negative last for ten seconds or longer. Once you can do this, a full pull-up will be within reach.

Dead Hangs

DSC 0533

If you are not strong enough to do a flex hang or a negative yet, your first objective is simply to get a feel for hanging from the bar. This will build grip strength and work your muscles isometrically. With some practice, you should be able to work to a flex hang fairly quickly. Even once you can perform flex hangs and controlled negatives, it is still helpful to practice dead hangs at the end of your training session when your arms have gotten too fatigued to do more negatives. When performing a dead hang, think about keeping your chest up and pulling your shoulder blades down in order to fully engage your back muscles.

Australian Pull-ups

The Australian pull-up (also known as a horizontal pull-up or bodyweight row) is another great exercise for anyone who is working their way up to a standard pull-up. The Australian involves getting “down under” a bar that is a little above waist height, with your feet resting on the ground. Keep a straight line from your heels to the back of your head as you squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull your chest to the bar. Novices may choose to bend their knees and push gently with their heels in order to give their arms assistance if needed. When you get a little more comfortable with this exercise you can angle your heels to the floor with your feet pointed up and your legs straight. Just like the dead hang, be sure that you are not shrugging your shoulders up when performing Australians. You want to pull your shoulder blades down and back – never up. This is the case for all pull-ups. Start getting in the habit of doing this right away – it’s the most common error I see people make when performing these moves.

Pull-ups and Beyond

When you’re ready to go for the full Monty, it’s generally best to start with an underhand (chin-up) grip. Chin-ups put more emphasis on your biceps, while an overhand grip will recruit your back musculature to a greater degree. Though the muscles of your back can potentially become bigger, stronger muscles than the biceps, deconditioned individuals are more likely to have some bicep strength from everyday activities, while their back muscles will be nowhere near their full potential. With practice and patience, the disparity in difficulty between different hand positions should begin to even out. It can also be worthwhile to practice a neutral grip pull-up, which involves gripping two parallel bars with your palms facing each other. This can be a nice intermediate step between the underhand and overhand grips. The neutral grip may also be less stressful on the shoulder joints of people who’ve had injuries to that area.


Once you get the hang of full overhand pull-ups, there are still many challenges ahead, including the muscle-up, which involves pulling (and then pushing) your entire upper body up and over the bar, as well as the elusive one arm pull-up. In fact, there is much more that can be done a pull-up bar than just pull-ups. The bar can be used for dips, hanging leg raises and countless other variations on these moves.

For more information, pick up a copy of my new book, Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Training.

What it takes: Survival of the fittest.

Written by Paleo blogger, Jamie Scott. Here is an excerpt.

From the Christshurch experience (and seen similarly in subsequent events such as the Japanese tsunami and UK riots,) many  people required the stamina to walk 3–4 hours, often over hills and dodging rock falls, to get home. If they were required to run, they were required to run fast, as was seen in 9/11 as people ran from the World Trade Centre. If you need to get out of a building under threat of collapse or need to escape an angry mob, you are not going to jog your way out of the situation. You require strength that is functional – not the ability to simply lift a nicely balanced bar that is set at just the right height – but often awkward objects with little grip.

You might require the ability to pull yourself up over a high fence and scale the side of a building to escape an impending wall of water, as was witnessed by a film crew escaping the Japanese tsunami. You may be required to belay large people down the side of a building as was seen in Christchurch. You might need to push a car, barge a door in or drag a body. You will require enough hip mobility to get into a low squat position, to move in that position, to crawl through small and narrow spaces that have been formed, either for you to get into or out of a building.

You may also require the ability to exert yourself for many hours without the opportunity to stop and refuel. My following of a high-fat, hunter-gatherer-type diet has given me that capacity. My energy levels do not rise and fall with a wildly fluctuating blood sugar level, nor do I have to stuff my pockets with energy bars to get me through. During the Christchurch earthquake, whilst everyone was stocking up on bread, cereal, and milk, my survival kit contained eggs, bananas, coconut cream, and dark chocolate. how long one might have to

With no idea how long one might have to stand in the face of disaster, you may also require a degree of mental stamina – a mentality that allows you to manage your thoughts, and asserts that you can rather than you can’t. Knowing you have the skills and capacity in your body allows you to have a similar capacity in your mind. At the point at which I decided to dig through large amounts of silt with a plank of wood to rescue my car and get out before the road collapsed, there was no requirement for me to question whether my body could dig for three hours. I didn’t need to convince my mind. I knew I had the physical capacity and the mind followed.

As you prepare for disaster, you wouldn’t prepare an emergency kit with supplies that were old, broken and not up to the task that you would expect them to be able to perform. So why would one expect a slow, tired and weak body to get them through when put to the test? Strength and conditioning will take you so far, but without skills you really only have capacity and health without useful ability.

In Interesting Times, the most important thing in your emergency response kit is you – your physical capacity and your ability to turn that capacity to the useful skills those times will inevitably require.

Read the whole article by downloading the magazine [here] Article is on pages 44 – 47

Big caloric deficits and high activity levels don’t work for fat loss.

I’m going to share a couple case studies I came across to illustrate an important point, that having a large energy deficit and a very high activity level is a recipe for failure. There’s also plenty of evidence here that cardio itself doesn’t help fat loss either…

The first example is common. This study was also discussed in great detail by Lyle McDonald. A woman began marathon training sessions with a reported low-calorie diet, and instead of losing weight, either maintained it or gained more. Her metabolic rate was also below normal.

Once diet was corrected and energy intake was increased gradually, her BMI came down and her metabolic rate increased.

That said, I’ve mentioned in previous articles that one oddity that I’ve seen (and personally experienced) over the years is one where the combination of very large caloric deficits and very large amounts of activity (especially higher-intensity activity) can cause problems for people either stalling or slowing fat loss.

The second example regards a young man trying to drop fat rapidly in order to pass a Navy diving exam and increase endurance capacity. You can read the full discussion by Jamie Scott here. He had a very high training regimen that included Crossfit, fasted training, lots of glycolitic work.

Once he dropped the activity level down substantially, and began comsuming more food, fat loss and energy levels improved rapidly.

Just a quick message to say the article is great. The fat is falling off me like it never actually has before and I’m feeling fuelled for every workout. I honestly can’t thank you enough. Coconut milk and cream have become my new best friends and I am talking everyone’s ears off at the gym with how good they are. I will keep in touch with the progress as I think something a bit crazy (good crazy) might be happening here, exciting.

So what’s going on here? We have a young man and an older woman, both trying to lose fat rapidly, following the conventional wisdom of eating less and jacking activity levels up, but they are moving backwards in terms of progress!

One important factor here is cortisol. It’s a stress hormone released by the body in response to pretty much all kinds of stress. Even though we hear a lot about it in the fitness world and it gets a bad rep, it’s really a necessary component of a healthy functioning body. Acute pulses can tend to be beneficial and cause adaptive changes, but chronic elevated cortisol levels start to become problematic.

For example, the morning cortisol pulse helps to promote fat mobilization.  In contrast, a chronic elevation of cortisol (especially in the face of high insulin levels) tend to promote visceral fat accumulation.  As a non-fitness related topic, acute pulses of cortisol tend to be good for memory (why we often remember stressful situations in such detail) while chronic elevations (as often seen in depression) make memory go down the toilet.  And there are endless other examples of where acute cortisol pulses are good and chronic elevations are bad; again see Sapolsky’s book for details.

In any case, dieting in general is a stress.  And of course training is a stress.  And the more extreme you do of each, the more of a stress occurs.  And I suspect that a lot of what is going on when folks try to combine excessive caloric deficits with massive amounts of activity is that cortisol just goes through the roof (there’s another issue I’ll come back to at the end that relates to this).  Simply, you get these massive chronic elevations in cortisol levels.

Tangentially, this is also one reason I suspect that various types of cyclical dieting help with some of this issue.  For at least brief periods, when calories are raised to maintenance or above, you break the diet/training induced elevations in cortisol.  This of course assumes that the person isn’t mentally stressed to the nines by raising calories like that but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Lyle, I couldn’t have put it better myself. Other things are also negatively affected by chronic cortisol production. It can cause water retention, leptin resistance in the brain, and even lower your metabolic rate. One study revealed that only 6 hours of cardio per week, combined with a “diet”, caused a larger decrease in metabolic rate than the “diet” alone! I don’t even approach that in my own training, but I’m sure most people who are addicted to cardio can easily go above and beyond that 6 hours.

In any case, there are several different plausible mechanisms by which the combination of excessive caloric deficits an large amounts of activity can cause problems.  Whether it’s simply cortisol related water retention, a drop in metabolic rate due to leptin resistance or something else, something is going on.  From a more practical standpoint, for a lot of people, the combination simply doesn’t work.  Mind you, some seem to get away with it but not all.

Now if we go back to the young man’s case. Let’s take a look at what he was eating.

Let’s put some numbers around this.  This is the approximate breakdown of this gentleman’s daily intake;

  • Energy: 1732 kcal
  • Protein: 162.5g
  • Carbs: 129.2g
  • Fat: 67.8g

And here was the workout regimen he was using.

4 x week run as per Crossfit Endurance – 1 x short intervals (10×400 usually), 1 x long intervals (6-8km of 200,400,800,1000 at 10k/5k race pace), 1 x stamina (2.4,4,5,10k TT) and 10×100 sprints/4×500 hill sprints alternated each week.

3 strength sessions – 5×5 Back squat and bench, 5×5 front squat and press, 5-5-5-3-3-1 deadlift

5 or 6 CF wods as per my box or something via sealfit/military athlete wods.

Swim twice a week, 1 x intervals and 1 long for recovery.

Ride the road bike 10k round trip to the box.

Rest Thursday AM and Sundays.

Usually do endurance workout in AM, Strength/WOD in PM.  I also add in specific training for my pushup/situp/pullup as required by the navy gig.

Wow. Simply not enough energy consumed to fuel all that activity! No wonder he was feeling worn out constantly, and his fat loss was stalled completely!

Edit 4/18/12: Here is one more example from Mark’s Daily Apple. It’s a success story of a marathon runner who continued to put on steady body fat, and never was able to lose it even while training for a London marathon. He was following the conventional wisdom of eating and training which included lots of cardio. Again, a perfect example of how cardio does not help you lose fat.

I’m not going to go into much more detail here. You can check out both of those discussions I linked to on your own. But basically there are some lessons to be learned from all this.

  • Fasted training and intermittent fasting has their place, but to reap the benefits you have to have plenty of food during your feeding window to meet your activity requirements. This allows a slight energy excess for training, while giving an energy deficit for fat loss during the fasted phase. Once you get down to very lean levels (roughly 10% for men and 14% for women) a slight energy deficit will work to slowly get you down to single digit bodyfat.
  • If you’re in a rush to lower BMI before some deadline, you are more likely to default to some conventional wisdom crap that will have you wasting time on a treadmill in the futile pursuit of less body fat.
  • The combination of major energy deficits and very high activity will set you backwards in terms of fat loss goals, and will waste a lot of time! It hurts rather than helps.
  • You can either cut energy intake hard, or increase activity levels hard, but you CAN’T do both. Your body will resist.
  • Some people (rarely) can get away with doing both. But they’re just lucky.
  • For most of us, fat loss and fitness goals can be met with the proper types of foods, and a relatively moderate activity level. (I mean lifting HEAAAVY things once in a while, and running really really fast every now and then) Once you are eating right and doing the right activity every once in a while to make your body adapt properly, your body will take care of the rest.

This is why I so strongly suggested AGAINST the inclusion of much cardio in The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook; it causes more harm than good.  Invariably, the biggest source of failure on that plan is when people ignore my advice and try to do a bunch of cardio.  And fat loss stops.

In any case, there are several different plausible mechanisms by which the combination of excessive caloric deficits an large amounts of activity can cause problems.  Whether it’s simply cortisol related water retention, a drop in metabolic rate due to leptin resistance or something else, something is going on.  From a more practical standpoint, for a lot of people, the combination simply doesn’t work. 

Thanks, Lyle, for that beautiful wrap-up.

You might also like to read: Cardio is for dummies, Thoughts in HIIT, Stretching is for dummies

Like this post? Want to find out more about how to get in shape fast? Check out these articles about getting in shape, feeling great, and controlling your genes!

Lower bodyfat setpoint.

Lose stubborn body fat. (Intermittent fasting)

Control your gene expression.

Heavy strength training is a required aspect of long term health. For everybody.

How to train your body to burn fat all day long. High intensity interval training (HIIT).

Why you should avoid too many polyunsaturated fats.

What is chronic inflammation. What to eat to avoid it.

The final word on grains and legumes: AVOID them.

The final word on Saturated fat and Cholesterol: EAT them

How to maintain vibrant health and good looks as you age

Aging comes with a lot of stigma these days. The slogan “I’m getting too old for this” is uttered by everyone at some point. We think that getting tired, sick, weak and slow are all part of the process. We are programmed to think that getting old inevitably includes bags, sags, and wrinkles, joint pain, cancer, heart attack, and lots of naps. Adding extra weight around our mid-sections is another accepted part of the “normal” aging process. Don’t believe any of this for one more second!

Aging does not have to come with any of that baggage.

In fact, most of these things are completely in your control. All it takes is living an active life and keeping your body in shape, while following an ancestral type diet that includes healthy animal meats and organs, vegetables and fruit, and eliminates all processed food, grains, and sugar. By doing so you will eliminate systemic inflammation, which is the cause of most modern ills and diseases. You will also find that your skin and complextion are healthier too. Lean muscle mass will provide you with the proper organ reserve to maintin strength and health through old age, and also prevents injury.

Take a look at this succss story from a 71 year old man (who looks more like 50) who has followed this type of lifestyle. Here are a couple of people (Mark Sisson, and his wife) over 50 who also have found success in an ancestral lifestyle. Here’s a few more! Gerry age 64, Paula 51, Dave 54, 65 year old mother, Norman 53, George 54.

Here is an informative list of 10 rules for aging well.

The role of lean muscle mass and organ reserve in aging

How to control your gene expression. Don’t be a victim of your own genes!

How to get that natural glow and maintain healthy skin

Is it really that easy? Yes it is! Try it for 2 weeks and tell me you don’t see immediate changes in your health and energy levels!

Like this post? Want to find out more about how to get in shape fast? Check out these articles about getting in shape, feeling great, and controlling your genes!

Lower bodyfat setpoint.

Lose stubborn body fat. (Intermittent fasting)

Control your gene expression.

Heavy strength training is a required aspect of long term health. For everybody.

How to train your body to burn fat all day long. High intensity interval training (HIIT).

Why you should avoid too many polyunsaturated fats.

What is chronic inflammation. What to eat to avoid it.

The final word on grains and legumes: AVOID them.

The final word on Saturated fat and Cholesterol: EAT them

Thoughts on high intensity interval training (HIIT)

[Shared from Matt Metzgar’s blog]

Following up on the last post, I think there are many ways to get the benefits of sprinting.  I thought it was interesting that in the video associated with the last post, Mercola stated that he only did Sprint 8 once per week instead of the recommended 3 times per week.

Along those same lines, Clarence Bass recently wrote about interval training.  He writes:

“My concern, however, is that three hard interval sessions a week is too much for most people to sustain; they’ll do it—even enjoy it—under supervision (as in the Little study), but they’re not likely to keep doing it on their own. Hard training every workout is asking for trouble; it is neither fun nor productive. My own experience is that one or at most two hard interval workouts a week is all I can tolerate effectively, especially in the context of a balanced program of strength and aerobic training.”

Clarence has been doing intervals for decades, and I put a lot of stock into what he has to say.

My own experience mirrors this point of view.  When I’ve tried to do the full Sprint 8 programs 3 times per week, I can do it for a month or so, but then I burn out.  Conversely, I can do hard intervals once a week and continue month after month.

So we know sprinting once a week is sustainable, but what are the other options?  Chris over at Conditioning Research (who by the way just released a new book titled Hillfit) pointed to a study the other month about a minimalist sprinting routine.

Here is an interesting part of the study:

“Several recent studies have suggested that high-intensity interval training (HIT), a training model involving a series of 30-second ‘all-out’ cycling sprints (i.e. Wingate sprints) with 4 minutes of rest/recovery between each bout, may provide a time-efficient strategy for inducing adaptations that are similar to traditional cardiorespiratory training (Gibala et al. 2006; Burgomaster et al. 2005; Burgomaster et al. 2008; Rakobowchuk et al. 2008; Burgomaster et al. 2007; Trilk et al. 2010).

Furthermore, we have recently demonstrated the beneficial effects of HIT on insulin sensitivity (Babraj et al. 2009), a finding that has since been confirmed by others (Little et al. 2011; Richards et al. 2010; Whyte et al. 2010). However, whilst these observations are interesting from a human physiological perspective, their translation into physical activity recommendations for the general population is uncertain for two reasons. Firstly, the relatively high exertion associated with ‘classic’ HIT sessions requires strong motivation and may be perceived as too strenuous for many sedentary individuals (Hawley and Gibala 2009). Secondly, although a typical HIT session requires only 2-3 minutes of actual sprint exercise, when considered as a feasible exercise session including a warm-up, recovery intervals and cool-down, the total time commitment is more than 20 minutes, reducing the time efficiency(Garber et al. 2011). Thus, there is scope for further research to determine whether the current HIT protocol can be modified to reduce levels of exertion and time-commitment whilemaintaining the associated health benefits.”

In short, they suggest that the benefits of sprinting could be obtained with a reduced workload.

Here is their formulation:

It has consistently been shown that a single 30-second Wingate sprint can reduce muscle glycogen stores in the vastus lateralis by 20-30% (Esbjornsson-Liljedahl et al. 1999; Parolin et al. 1999; Esbjornsson-Liljedahl et al. 2002; Gibala et al. 2009). What is intriguing, however, is that glycogenolysis is only activated during the first 15 seconds of the sprint and is then strongly attenuated during the final 15 seconds (Parolin et al. 1999). Moreover, activation of glycogenolysis is inhibited in subsequent repeated sprints (Parolin et al. 1999). This suggests that the traditional HIT protocol (4-6×30 seconds) may be unnecessarily strenuous as similar glycogen depletion may be achieved using 1-2 sprints of shorter duration (15-20 seconds). In turn, this would make the training sessions more time-efficient, less strenuous and more applicable to the largely sedentary general population.”

Thus, they are saying that traditional sprinting programs may be overkill in a way, and that you could deplete glycogen just as well by doing 1-2 sprints of 15 to 20 seconds.

This I think leads to a real insight: if you cut the number and duration of sprints (but keep the intensity), then I could see how you could be able to do this workout more frequently.  So while 3 days per week of 6 to 8 30-second sprints may be too much for many people, 3 days per week of 1 to 2 15-second sprints may produce similar benefits and be more appealing to people.

Stretching is for dummies

Stretching won’t prevent injury or sore muscles before or after exercise. Stretching won’t even help you “warm up”. So what is stretching good for?

People like to stretch. It feels good. It makes you feel like you are doing something good for your body. If you look around the gym and pay attention – where most people have no idea what the heck they are doing – you see people stretch as if it’s expected of them. It has been programmed into us from a young age throughout school gymnasiums.

Everyone assumes that stretching is the right thing to do. But how useful is it really? Well, it just so turns out….


Stretching won’t prevent muscle soreness:

Researchers looked at 10 relevant randomised trials looking at the effect of stretching before or after physical activity on muscle soreness. The studies produced very consistent findings – there was minimal or no effect on the muscle soreness experienced between half a day and three days after the physical activity.

The best available evidence indicates stretching does not reduce muscle soreness. However there are other justifications for stretching,” they wrote. “Some evidence suggests that once muscle soreness has developed stretching may provide a transient relief of soreness: some people stretch to reduce risk of injury, others stretch to enhance athletic or sporting performance, and yet others stretch because it gives them a sense of well-being. The current review does not provide any evidence of an effect or otherwise of stretching on risk of injury, performance, or well-being.

Authors’ conclusions:
The evidence derived from mainly laboratory-based studies of stretching indicate that muscle stretching does not reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness in young healthy adults.

[Here’s more about stretching and reducing muscle soreness]

[Even more: Link, ]

Stretching won’t prevent injury. Stretching actually promotes injury:

Most of the studies that show increased flexibility and range of motion with stretching fail to address one thing: The problem with stretching is that muscles become too loose, and weaker, allowing the associated joint to move in a wider range of motion.

That’s extremely bad, since heavy lifting usually employs your full range of motion, you need your muscles to be able to stabilize the joint in place, not give it more range. I can see now how easy it would be for many lifters who stretch to get rotator cuff damage from heavy bench presses. Increased range of motion puts more stress on the joint, increasing the risk of injury.

Damaging the muscle through stretching can also have an adverse affect on an athlete’s gait. The loss of smooth efficient movement puts stress on virtually all structures – ligaments, tendons, joints and bones. They body tries to compensate for this irregular movement, and in doing so uses up more energy, reducing ones performance.

A recent study showed how stretching can result in poor running economy. increasing energy consumption during an endurance event, and decreasing performance.

Stretching will reduce muscular power:

In this study, acute bouts of static stretching have been shown to impair performance. Most published studies have incorporated static stretching that stressed the muscle(s) to the point of discomfort (POD). There are very few studies that have examined the effects of submaximal intensity (less than POD) static stretching on subsequent performance.

Ten participants were pre-tested by performing two repetitions of three different stretches to assess range of motion (ROM) and two repetitions each of five different types of jumps. Following pre-testing, participants were stretched four times for 30 s each with 30 s recovery for the quadriceps, hamstrings and plantar flexors at 100% (POD), 75% and 50% of POD or a control condition. Five minutes following the stretch or control conditions, they were tested post-stretch with the same stretches and jumps as the pre-test. All three stretching intensities adversely affected jump heights.

With data collapsed over stretching intensities, there were significant decreases in jump height of 4.6% (P = 0.01), 5.7% (P < 0.0001), 5.4% (P = 0.002), 3.8% (P = 0.009) and 3.6% (P = 0.008) for the drop jump, squat jump, countermovement jump (CMJ) to a knee flexion of 70 degrees , CMJ using a preferred jump strategy and short amplitude CMJ respectively. An acute bout of maximal or submaximal intensity stretching can impair a variety of jumping styles and based on previous research, it is hypothesized that changes in muscle compliance may play a role.

[Here’s more about stretching and how it reduces muscular performance Link, Link, Link, Link, Link]

[More reasons not to stretch before exercise]

So, when is stretching beneficial, if at all?

One thing some studies do show, is that stretching with no other exercise following is able to significantly improve performance.

Note: Statistical significance – means the likelihood that a finding or a result is caused by something other than just chance. (i.e. not a large amount, but just enough to matter) Just sayin’…

This study showed that, in the ascence of any other exercise, stretching has some benefit. Simply stretching the muscles had a training effect. The trainees got faster, stronger, and more flexible. The article suggests that stretching may be a good introduction for those who are out of shape or just beginning an exercise routine, or for those not yet fit enough to do other types of training.

[Article: Static stretching improves exerxcise performance]

Conclusion: “This study suggests that chronic static stretching exercises by themselves can improve specific exercise performances”

My opinion is that stretching should be done only by those in rehab or those who are unable to do regular training. If you are able to train, however, you probably should train, since results will likely be much greater than just static stretching. Plus, stretching just sucks!

Just sayin’….

Like this post? Want to find out more about how to get in shape fast? Check out these articles about getting in shape, feeling great, and controlling your genes!

Lower bodyfat setpoint.

Lose stubborn body fat. (Intermittent fasting)

Control your gene expression.

Heavy strength training is a required aspect of long term health. For everybody.

How to train your body to burn fat all day long. High intensity interval training (HIIT).

Why you should avoid too many polyunsaturated fats.

What is chronic inflammation. What to eat to avoid it.

The final word on grains and legumes: AVOID them.

The final word on Saturated fat and Cholesterol: EAT them