I wasn’t ready to post about this, but I’ve been getting questions about what seems to be a conflicting opinion regarding my fitness protocol. On one hand, I think Tabatas and sprints are great. Yet I openly admit that I don’t do them, but I never explained why. In the post The Myth of Cardiovascular Training, I confessed just how little exercise I do.
When I was in college I ran two sub-4 hour marathons and had a resting heart rate in the 50s. Since the late 90s, I havent ran at all. Not a single block. I go for long and short walks plus I lift weights. I only lift weights 1 or 2 times a week and then for less than 30 minutes.I havent broken a sweat exercising in many years. Even though I am older and exercise far less than I used to, I am in the best shape of my life and my resting heart rate is still in the 50s.
If I believe that brief high burst exercise is good for you, why don’t I do any? For that explanation, I need to go back a few years. From the late 90s until 2009, I had periods of back pain. One of the triggers for that back pain was running. During this decade, I believed there was something broken with me and I was unable to run. It has only been recently that I discovered the cause of my back pain was not related to running.
In early 2009, I had just gone through a period of bad back pain. This was also the same period that I was exploring Intermittent Fasting, Cold Weather Training, and lower carbohydrate diets. I was getting leaner despite the fact I couldn’t exercise. This was a paradigm shift in my thinking. Like most people, up until that moment I believed in the “diet + exercise” thesis on getting lean. I was getting leaner than I had been in 10 years and I wasn’t even exercising. Then I got an idea for The Grand Experiment.
The Grand Experiment
Could one get lean without breaking a sweat? Could I prove that diet alone could be responsible for getting one lean? This means absolutely no cardio, sprints or intervals. I could still go for walks and lift weights, but nothing else. Remember that at this time, I was still struggling with back pain. The only question left was to define the word “lean”. I decided to use the Level 3* definition explained in the post Moving Up the Leanness Levels.
- Level 0 You are mostly lean, but your abs arent quite flat.
- Level 1 Flat stomach with no ab definition.
- Level 2 Level 1 + some upper ab definition.
- Level 3 Level 2 + lower ab definition.
- Level 4 Level 3 with deep cuts and dry (no water weight)
I take the opposite approach of many fitness professionals. They would prefer you did 10 things to improve your body composition on the hopes that at least one will work. Not me. I like to add one thing at a time and then measure. I want to know the magnitude of the variable I’m adjusting. This means I need to keep things the same and then tweak one thing. Doing Tabatas or sprints while I’m testing a new diet variable wouldn’t tell me what caused the change in body composition. Fortunately, I am patient and consider physique hacking to be more of a research puzzle than discipline.
The Results (So far)
When I started The Grand Experiment, I was at Level 0. Today, I am *so close* to Level 3. Some mornings, I am at Level 3, but not for the majority of the week. I’m still dialing in some new aspects to my diet, so I’m hesitant to end the experiment and start doing intervals. What The Grand Experiment has proven so far is that cardio is absolutely not necessary to achieve flat abs. This is exactly what I predicted.
* I now believe the Level defintions are a good starting point, but not complete. It is still possible to have an undefined linea albinea and handles with lower ab definition. Level 3 probably needs to be broken down into components.