After posting The Myth of Cardiovascular Training, I received an email invitation from Greg Anderson to come to visit his North Seattle gym. Ideal Exercise is not a glitter gym (bright lights, treadmills, etc) nor is it a rust gym (hard rock and free weights). Ideal Exercise is all about coached High-Intensity Training using specific machine-based exercises. What does High-Intensity Training meaning? Although it has several definitions, in this case, it mirrored the training protocols outlined in the phenomenal book Body by Science.
Body by Science: A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week by Doug McGuff and John Little
Greg has worked with several well respected high-intensity fitness experts, including Mike Mentzer and even Dr. McGuff.
Unlike the Glitter Gyms, the temperature at Ideal Exercise was a crisp 61-62 degrees. I love it. Back when I was in Queen Anne at Prorobics, I’d open the window even in the dead of winter to drop the temperature in the free weight room. My goal was not to sweat but to lift heavier weights.
Heavier weights, not sweat is what makes you stronger. I later learned from an interview with Dr. McGuff that 61 degrees was ideal for generating the most intensity. Intensity is not about increasing your core temperature and sweating off calories. Intensity is about recruiting maximum muscle fibers in a brief and safe manner. Weight training will increase your core temperature, so starting from a cool temperature will allow you to be comfortable and not hot when lifting. Therefore you can direct more attention and energy into the weights.
High-Intensity Training is about using slow controlled movements. After a failed start with this method last spring, I restarted a slow protocol in December. After 16 years of lifting the other way, I have been trying to learn how to generate high intensity safely using the slow method. During my workout with Greg Anderson, he gave me lots of tips and information to assist with my knowledge. He explained breathing, jaw position, where to focus your eyes, and tempo.
After getting my height and asking a few strength questions, Greg set up the Big 5 workout for me. The Big Five exercises are:
- Leg Press
- Bench Press
- Pull down
- Overhead Press
- Seated Row
Each exercise is done one-set to failure. For my workout, failure was not defined as the inability to do another rep, but the inability to even move the weight another inch. This was an important concept for me to understand. At the completion of one exercise, I was quickly moved to the next one. The entire workout lasted just under 9 minutes. It was the hardest most brutal workout I’ve ever done. Greg – through coaching, never yelling – was able to push me to intensity levels that I didn’t know I was capable of reaching.
In this video, Dr. McGuff explains the background of the Big 5 Workout.
The level of intensity that this type of workout requires would not be safe to do with free weights. For the next 48 hours, I was sore, but sore in a good way. Unlike the soreness you get from doing low-weight, high repetitions where it hurts to move, I was functional sore. My movement was fine and fluid, just a little slower. I was still able to go snow tubing on Saturday.
I am still a student of slow movement high-intensity training. I’m not ready to endorse or dismiss it yet, although I am liking it more each week. I’m going to keep at it and report back on this blog. One thing I am already convinced of is how important it is to slow the negative portion of your lift. Don’t let gravity take the tension off your muscles. Control that movement.
If you are interested in trying this type of workout and live in North Seattle, I highly recommend contacting Ideal Exercise.
Ideal Exercise is located in the Bitterlake Center (behind Car Toys) at 929 N 130th St Ste 4, Seattle, WA