4 Important Answers to Common Questions

I just got this email, and thought it was worth answering here…

“Hi Chad! …My curiosity led me to read through your website and I am intrigued… My questions are: 1) how long does the shaking and muscle fatigue last after a workout (I can’t be incapacitated with a toddler and no help), 2) does this method do anything for your cardiovascular health and flexibility, 3) do the muscles get bulky (for a woman, lean and long is the desired look), and 4) do you design a client’s diet (daily calories, protein/carb/fat percentages, specific foods, etc)?… ~Liane”

Excellent questions, Liane, and here are my answers to each:

1. Any momentarily “disabling” muscle fatigue (which typically only occurs with clients who are quite advanced) begins to noticeably improve within 2-10 minutes.  Even the most extreme on the intensity scale are fully functional within 30-45 minutes, though they may still notice some signs of fatigue.  As anything, individual effects may vary.  And we can adjust the workouts to accommodate.

2. The only way to get at your cardiovascular system is through working the skeletal muscles that support it (well, the only really safe way–stimulants can speed up your heart rate, but speeding up your heart rate like that can cause bad stuff… like death).  The evidence shows that skeletal muscle activity of any kind (vs. no activity at all) lowers risk of heart disease.  Then there is another question: what sort of activity, and how much, is best? 

Which is better?

  • walking/jogging (low intensity, intermittent muscular work)
  • sprinting (high-intensity, intermittent muscular work)
  • conventional weight training (moderate-high intensity, intermittent muscular work)
  • high-precision, high-intensity training like I do, myself (high-intensity, continuous muscular work)

I don’t think there is yet a proven answer.  However, current evidence points toward the idea that the greater the intensity of activity, the greater the benefit… and that this is true virtually independent of how long the workout lasts or how often the workout is performed.   There was an interesting 13 year (I think) Harvard study of around 45,000 men that showed improved cardiovascular health corresponded to the intensity of activity that a person did, and not the duration or how often it was done.  (people in the study who lifted weights once a week had a lower risk for heart disease than those who walked for at least 30 minutes every day)

There are also easy-to-demonstrate safety advantages to doing the fourth and final option above… both from the perspective of the ability to track appropriate muscle and joint function and minimize torque forces on one’s joints that cause wear and strain, and also from cardiovascular safety–there are studies and anecdotal evidence that shows that continuous muscle loading puts less bad strain on the heart and seems to be cardio-protective, even at high intensity levels, in a way that walking and jogging are not, even at lower intensity levels. 

There is the reason doctors give for people to do “aerobic” activity 3-5 days per week.  This reason is that studies have shown that such activity is healthier than being sedentary.  I agree with these studies, however, most of those studies have lacked inclusion of higher intensity level activities to compare to the walking/jogging.  In all the studies I’m aware of that do include higher intensity activities, the high intensity activities win, hands-down.

Then there is the convincing observation that people often make that seems to confirm the idea that “aerobic,” steady-state activities (such as walking or jogging) are good for the cardiovascular system:  when one does these activities, one improves over time, able to increase the distance and speed of travel, while getting less winded.  This seems to be an obvious, unquestionable sign of cardiovascular improvement, however sports studies that have shown that improvements in performance in one activity (such as running, swimming, or cycling) do not transfer to any other activities, and are not the result of an improvement in one’s cardiovascular system, but instead, seemingly a result of increased skill at that activity.  The only studies in this group that have shown a transference of benefit were when the intensity of a group of athletes was taken up to the point of muscle failure.  That seemed to cause a true cardiovascular improvement, as it created benefit that transferred across activities. 

Then there are the anecdotal results we see… when we train people here in our Los Angeles gym: excellent improvements above and beyond all previous training, even in the case of cyclists and tennis players who have been sometimes training almost daily for “stamina.”  (remember, we’re only adding about 20 minutes a week to their routine, and sometimes also taking away hours per week of what they were doing before).

And there are the technical reasons that MDs and physiologists have shared with me as to why certain methods (which I incorporate into my workouts and those of my clients) might be superior in training for cardiovascular health.  I’ve gone on too long, but I have articles with research citations, and I’m happy to give copies to any of you who are clients of my gym.  Just ask, and I’ll make sure you get it at your next workout. 

2b.  Flexibility.  This is a tricky area.  First we need to define what we mean by flexibility and what constitutes an improvement in flexibility.

At first glance, it may seem obvious that more flexibility is better.  However, looked from another angle—say the angle of an aging Cirque de Soleil performer, it might seem obvious that attaining more flexibility could be detrimental to one’s health and quality of life. 

In my current edition of Guyton & Hall’s Medical Physiology textbook, there is no mention of anything called “flexibility.”  The tricky thing is that flexibility is not a single biological event that is either good or bad.  Flexibility is the degree of rotation of a joint or series of joints—an event which involves muscle tissue, tendons, and ligaments.

Just as weight loss is bad if it is a result of loss of muscle tissue, organ tissue, or bone density, so an increase of flexibility is bad if it is a result of, say, over-stretched ligaments (which could lead to destabilized joints and injuries). 

To a large degree, one’s flexibility is determined by genetics and age (which control the joint structure and the elasticity of one’s tendons–largely a function of how your particular body makes collagen).

Properly performed, high-precision, very low-to-zero impact resistance training is beneficial to encourage the health of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. 

I’ll move away from “flexibility” for a moment to the more narrow issue of tight muscles.  What causes “tight” muscles is not entirely clear to me, as I’ve seen multiple explanations, including the explanation that no one knows for sure; however, when I personally get a tight muscle, I find that controlled moderate to high intensity exercise of that muscle provides the greatest and fastest relief from the tightness for me (more so than merely stretching that muscle).  This is especially with my neck–I have a neck machine in my gym that I *love* to load up with weight when my neck gets tight.  In many instances, I’ve seen chronically tight muscles improve over time through training with the same exercises that are effective for optimal strength improvements.  In this narrow (but, I believe healthy) sense, I’ve seen flexibility improve. 

I’ve also seen cases of unstable, problematic joints, likely do to over-stretched ligaments, become stabilized as the one’s muscles are strengthened.  In this narrow sense, as well, I believe I see improvements in flexibility (though, the improvement may be a *decrease* in flexibility).
 
3. As for whether the exercise methods I believe produce optimal health with the greatest efficiency make someone too bulky, I trained Sharon Stone for Basic Instinct 2 this way.  Watch it and let me know what you think! The short answer is that genetics determines whether your muscles look “bulky” or not, and the particular movements you make while training don’t change it either way, contrary to what some marketers would try to convince you.

4. To address diet, your nutritional intake is a major factor in your health–both as a source of controlling caloric intake (or restriction) and to provide the proper balance and timing of nutrients to allow for the optional functioning of your physical body, including your brain. Good nutrition interfaces with good exercise to maximize your quality of life. 

While the focus of my business is purely to provide the very best exercise training, as a personal side-interest, over the years, I’ve gotten good at finding the diet solutions that work for different people in different situations, and at sorting out what is evidence-based, effective nutritional advice, and what advice is fad advice that may merely sound scientific, but drops context in favor of simplicity… and is not to your greatest benefit.  We can give you as general or as specific advice as you are willing to follow, and I’m confident that if you’re willing to follow even the most general advice (which is not about depriving you of everything you love, by the way), then you’ll achieve rapid, consistent, long-term results. 

In fact, here’s my most general advice: eat no more than 400 calories per meal or snack, eat something at least 5 times per day, evenly spaced, try to eat foods that are as minimally processed and as close to their natural state as possible, and have a significant portion of each meal or snack from both protein and fat.  For an example of someone who was willing to follow our most specific advice, without deviation, take a look at < a href="http://www.myogenicsfitness.com">Jerry’s photos before and after his personal training with us. 

Cheers,
Chad

One Response to “4 Important Answers to Common Questions”

  1. Diano

    I did almost etcaxly that. I lost 40 lbs spread out over 6 months. The first three months I was not following a very low cal diet, I was eating 1500-1600 cals a day. I did yoga (power yoga, 1 hr) 3x a week, and was running about 2x a week (1-1.5 miles each time). I lost 20 lbs during that time. Then I went on vacation for a month, didn’t count any calories or exercise at all, but didn’t gain any weight. When I came back, I started exercising again. I this time ate 1200-1300 calories a day, attended 4 (sometimes 5) power yoga classes a week, and only ran on average once a week (1-1.5 miles). I lost the last 20 lbs during that two months.I definitely think that the power yoga + low cal diet combo works wonders. I saw differences in my body (look and strength) after just a month of that. I don’t think the running really had anything to do with it, it was minimal, and I just did it bc occasionally I feel like it. I did the math, and I lost .5-1 lbs per week more on the last 2 months than on the first 3. Part of that is that I was eating less, but those power yoga classes burned a lot more than the running workouts I did. And the last 2 months I did 1-2 more yoga workouts and one less running workout per week, as compared to the first 3 months.And, I was so incredibly flexible. As I’ve said before on Y!A, I was so flexible that economy airline seats were comfortable. I could just fold up and be comfy. I really have to get back into doing yoga regularly!

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