Exercise Update – Summer 2012

Three months ago I put out my 5 part series on exercise and fat loss. If you don’t wish to read it, my belief is that exercise is vastly over rated when it comes to long term fat loss. What looks like progress in the short term erodes when looking at longer time frames due to injuries and increased appetite in response to increased energy demands. In the post Fat Loss and the Case For Less Exercise, I outlined my updated minimalistic exercise plan.

  1. SuperSlow or Static Hold HIT (High Intensity Training)
  2. Uphill Sprints
  3. Sprint Rowing (Tabata style)

Prior to outlining this plan, I was only doing HIT once every 5 days. Well my plan ran into some resistance. Shortly after doing that post, I got some unexplained back pain after one uphill sprint session, so I stopped running. The back pain went away shortly afterwards. I also stopped rowing, because my gym only has a single rower. Once the cardio junkies saw me using the machine, they got inspired and started using it. Unlike my 2 minutes of high intensity intervals, they would camp out there doing slow steady state rowing.

Another thing happened at my gym. The average temperature went from 66 to 71 and the air now feels muggy. There were a few times I came close to breaking a sweat! Long time readers know that I take pride in not having broken a sweat exercising in years. I have also discovered that exertion headaches doing High Intensity are triggered easier when it is warm, so I’ve increased my rest time between exercises. This is why HIT gyms often keep the temperature at 61 degrees.

My HIT weight sessions have gone from every 5th day to every 7th day. There is something extremely powerful about the Static Weight Max Pyramid. I’m getting a deeper level of fatigue and my recovery takes a little longer. If you are an ectomorph, I highly encourage you to try this workout.

So here we are in the summer of 2012 and I’m exercising just 15 minutes a week, which is a record low for a healthy me. I also spend half that workout standing outside the gym cooling down between exercises. And the result is I’m in the best shape of my life. Quality absolutely trumps quantity. Once fall arrives to Seattle and my gym is less stuffy, I’ll slowly resume rowing and uphill sprinting.

Photo by Lisa Parker. I’ll resume uphill sprints in the fall. 


Add yours

  1. Hey MAS,

    I have also experienced exertion headaches while performing weighted chin ups in a warmer environment.

    I usually go into my HIT resistance training session without any prior warmup and hit the machines right away. I have experienced some pressure on my head while doing the MedX Lumbar Extension as my first exercise.

    My experience has been that the temporary headache goes away as I focus on breathing more intensely. Moving on to the next machine was also helpful to me.

    I am not a fan of static stretches prior to a HIT session but have you had any benefits with dynamic ones?

  2. @Stephan – I agree that breathing more intensely helps. I have not experimented with dynamic stretching before HIT. I did a little before uphill sprints though. I do a set minutes of mobility work prior to HIT, but it is slow and low impact.

    Nice website. I just subscribed to your RSS feed.

  3. @MAS – I’ve been rope skipping in a HIT fashion. I have been doing it mostly right after getting up to get my digestive tract going and my lymphatic fluids moving.

    I usually start out very easy for 30 sec and go full steam for a full minute. I can tell when I have done it correctly – my morning sleepiness is wiped out in an instant. 🙂

    PS: As for my website: thanks for the kind words. The reason I really like your blog is because it resonates with topics that I am also passionate about. Keep it up!

  4. Michael: thanks for sharing; it’s a reminder I need to try the pyramid thing.

    Stephan: your grilled Sardine + sweet potato + sauteed spinach looks outstanding. I’m not sure I can get Sardines around here, but I can improvise something else.

  5. Michael: OK, so:

    1) chin up
    2) chest press (bench press)
    3) Leg press

    That’s the static hold workout you’re talking about?


  6. @Scott – I have done static holds with the chin up. I also like the pull-down and row machines. For chest, I do use a Hammer bench press machine. And yes I use the leg press also.

    Occasionally I’ll end the workout with a static hold for a shoulder press using lighter dumbbells.

  7. Michael —

    I too have been HIT’ing for a long while — on my own intermittently for years, easily falling under Martin Berkman’s “f**karounditis” — and more seriously in the past two. Since April 2011, after stalling on my own, I’ve worked with a dedicated HIT trainer and love it. Best 20 minutes of the week.

    Question for you: have you measured your progress against your previous lifting approach? Just this week (trainer out of town) I went back to my old gym to do a workout on my own. After a year of steady lifting gains I was excited to compare my new strength.

    Instead I wasn’t able to even touch my previous numbers. In one case could barely move the weight (what I previously had done for 1:30+) and in the others crapped out at a minute.

    I was pretty stunned, and haven’t yet figured out what to make of it. On one hand I’ve been on a lengthy “cut” (I lost 25 lbs during the past year), so what should I expect? On the other: I’ve added 100 lbs to my leg-press during that time. What’s that about?

    Curious if you’ve compared yet. I am sticking with it, but now going to see what eating more will impact.

  8. @John D – You asked an excellent question. Too much for a comment. When I get back from my summer blogging break, I will do a full post on this topic.

    My short answer is I’ve discarded measuring completely. All I care about is intensity. Many things affect intensity, some of which I can not control, so I don’t bother. If it is outside my control, then it is a potential stressor if I try to quantify it. The limiting factor for muscle growth for ectomorphs, besides lack of calories, is too much stress. As long as I’m injury free and feel like I’ve gotten a great workout, numbers are worthless to me.

  9. MAS, you are a much more emotionally stable fellow than I am… I find myself antsy for the weekly workout and my potential to break new ground, weight- or time-wise. I’m sure that does me no favors… And of course it results in the potential for dismaying events like this one.

    Anyway, as an endomorph (I guess, never looked tht up until tonight) I have little problem gaining, but am hypersensitive to gaining fat since that’s all I’ve ever really put on. So lifting progress is what I use to keep me comfy that I’m doing something right… either losing the right stuff (fat) or gaining the right stuff (muscle).

    Look forward to your post.

  10. @John D – It has taken me many years to get to the attitude I hold today and every now and then I get feel the temptation to push it further than my body will allow. I have not looked into what steps endomorphs should be using to hack their physique. I suspect the stress you experience in the quest for leanness is similar to the ectomorphs quest for more muscle.

    I find looking at the day to day or week to week results might throw off conflicting data of progress. Sort of like how the stock market moves wildly throughout the day and week, but over a longer period those variances smooth out. Accept that some workouts will be below baseline. If too many are below baseline, then I would increase your rest period.

    And always remember that the fitness industry thrives on feeding your insecurities about not doing enough.

  11. Thanks MAS. Y, I am generally “over” training angst, and the notion of discrete week-over-week progress. I’m comfy with the long game.

    Hence my original issue: the year-over-year trend suggests my HIT lifting progress, while seemingly meaningful on specialized MedX equipment that I love, hasn’t translated to progress on (and in fact has represented regress) on other measures of strength, i.e. regular machines or free weights. That’s hard to fathom.

    (And I suspect the stress of endomorphs is quite high, yes. My entire life I’ve dreamed of being a skinny guy — not a muscled 100M sprinter, mind you, a regular-old 30-inch waist skinny guy –which is a hard thing to strive for.)

  12. @John D – Don’t forget that regular free weights have a high technique component. Although your strength probably increased, your technique is probably worse, since you haven’t been practicing the movement.

  13. @John D.
    As MAS has rightly pointed out – good technique is absolutely key when handling free weights. Perfect example is the bench press where proper technique can easily give you an additional 100 lbs.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about your free weight regression. You are using biomechanically sound MedX equipment which completely doesn’t compare to free weights.

    I also love the MedX equipment and use it intensely. I do 520 lbs on the MedX leg press – but who cares? When it comes to free weights, I would never be able to back squat 520 lbs because of a lack of squatting technique. At least my chance of injury is minimised when using MedX.

    The point is – your relative strength on the MedX equipment is increasing and that’s what counts. Remember – performing mechanical work is all about stimulating your muscle fibers to grow – nothing else.
    So, what matters most is that the increase of your strength due to the workout projects to the world outside the gym where you walk around stronger, healthier and more capable of taking on the world.

  14. Thanks Stephan. I should clarify that most of my regressions were on other machines (mostly Cybex). I only did one free-weight exercise to compare.

    I guess what I’m questioning is this statement: “So, what matters most is that the increase of your strength due to the workout projects to the world outside the gym where you walk around stronger…”

    My first real test of this was returning to weights/machines I had plateaued on 15 months ago, and despite significant MedX gains, outside of that environment I couldn’t demonstrate any growth. I’d have assumed on at least one exercise I might overcome the difference in machines. I love the MedX stuff, but how much different is one shoulder press machine versus another, or a pulldown?

    We’re close to reaching full circular argument, and I realize there’s not much more to say. If I’m worried about it I suppose I can keep hacking away at the Cybex machines for a couple more weeks and see if I blow past my previous weights (thus suggesting I needed a week or two to adjust to the equipment). We’ll see.

    Thx for your comments!

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