In an earlier post, we discuss why we should stop the mundane routine of 1 hour weights + 30 minutes of cardio (i.e. the traditional workout).
Specifically, these workouts:
- Become boring fast,
- Take too much time (1.5 hours or more), and
- Deliver sub-optimal results.
What should we do instead? Let’s look at each point.
ISSUE #1: Traditional Workouts Become Boring Fast
SOLUTION: Do The Things You Enjoy
Being active, staying in shape should never feel like a chore. Rather, the journey itself should be enjoyable too.
While this point may seem obvious, we should be active in the things we enjoy.
We propose a high intensity workout routine that we believe is more enjoyable than the traditional workout.
But, keep an open mind to other activities too. Running outside, olympic weightlifting, swimming, rock climbing, yoga, hiking. It’s definitely okay to mix things up. As we become more active, we may find interest in other physical activities.
ISSUE #2: Traditional Workouts Take Too Much Time
SOLUTION: Spend At Most One Hour At The Gym
There’s little reason to spend more than an hour at the gym. Get in at 5pm. Leave by 6pm.
Stick to this time constraint. It makes the mental commitment of working out easier and the whole process more enjoyable.
ISSUE #3: Traditional Workouts Deliver Sub-Optimal Results
SOLUTION: Do High Intensity Workouts with Functional, Compound Movements
Let’s break down what we mean by “functional, compound movements” and “high intensity”.
Functional, Compound Movements
In real life, our bodies coordinate multiple joints and muscles to move. And, we do them without much thought.
For example, when we place a heavy box on an overhead shelf, we use our legs, glutes, and hips to lift the box off the ground. Then, we use our core for stability and arms, shoulders, and back to place the box on the shelf. All the while, the only real conscious thought is: “let me place this box overhead.”
We’re not thinking about isolating our leg muscles, abs, biceps, etc. In fact, by exercising with isolating movements, we’re unintentionally training our central nervous system to forget how to move efficiently as a whole.
It makes sense, then, that the movements we do in our workouts should reflect and support the movements we do in real life (i.e. they’re functional). They should also never isolate. Rather, they should always recruit multiple joints and muscles to work together (i.e. they’re compound).
Movements that satisfy both conditions are known as functional, compound movements. They’re often rooted in gymnastics, olympic weightlifting, and powerlifting. See our list of movements.
Examples of Functional, Compound Movements
When these movements involve weights, they’re always with free weights, never machines. No Smith machines, no leg press machines, no cable pulley machines.
Technically, “high intensity” means working at or near your max power capacity. From a metabolic point-of-view, it means relying primarily on your anaerobic energy systems.
In everyday terms, it means pushing yourself as hard as you can for a short period of time. You know you’re working at high intensity when your heart rate is up, you feel out of breath, and you feel you can’t keep up the pace for too long.
Examples: 1-rep max weight deadlift, 200-meter sprint intervals.
So, why high intensity workouts? They uniquely provide these benefits:
- Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, a.k.a. “Afterburn Effect”, increases calorie burn after the workout ends. “Post-exercise oxygen consumption replenishes the phosphagen system… [and oxidizes] lactic acid” as a result of utilizing anaerobic energy systems. (1)
- Neuroendocrine response that results in increased “testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, and human growth hormone”, which “increase muscle mass and bone density.” (2) They also improve our metabolic system in how we store, break down, and burn calories. (3, 4)
- Cardiovascular improvements that increase the “body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently” and allow “blood vessels [to expand] better… which reduces the risk of a vessel-blocking clot.” (5)
- Take less time while delivering similar or greater benefits than low to moderate-intensity workouts done for longer duration. This may explain why high intensity workouts are perceived as more enjoyable. (6)
BRINGING EVERYTHING TOGETHER
How do these guidelines translate into an actual workout routine? Here’s an example.
A workout day may look like this:
0:00 Arrive at the gym
0:05 – 0:10 Warm up
0:15 – 0:30 Do strength / skill exercise
0:35 – 0:50 Do conditioning workout, e.g. use Keelo app
0:50 – 0:55 Cool down
0:55 Leave the gym
This schedule takes less than an hour, but it’s highly effective. And, here’s what we mean by “strength / skill exercise” and “conditioning workout”.
Strength / Skill Exercise
Strength or skill exercise refers to activity done to improve the body’s strength, power, coordination, balance, or accuracy. Examples:
- 5 sets of 5 deadlifts,
- 12 alternating sets of kettlebell swings and pull-ups.
Pick just one to two movements for the day. Because they’re compound movements, we’re actually working many muscles at once. A single deadlift activates over 30 different muscles! (7)
Conditioning workouts refer to short, high intensity workouts that focus on improving our cardio endurance, stamina, speed, coordination, and agility. While strength isn’t an explicit objective, these workouts reinforce the strength we already have.
In short, these workouts do a whole lot. In our opinion, just doing conditioning workouts three times a week would be sufficient exercise for most people.
What does a conditioning workout look like? These are the Keelo workouts! For example:
After each set of sit-ups, do 10 Hand Release Push-ups
When done consistently over time, these workouts deliver significant improvements to our musculoskeletal, central nervous, cardiovascular, and metabolic systems.
Our New High Intensity Workout Schedule
Now, let’s plan a month’s workout schedule with these steps:
- Pick three strength or skill movements to focus on, e.g. deadlifts, pull-ups, press.
- Pick three days of the week you can commit to working out.
- Assign a movement to each workout day of the week.
- After the strength or skill portion, do a Keelo workout.
When set for the whole month, your workout schedule may look like this:
Our new high intensity workout routine takes under an hour. Yet, it’s more effective and fun than the traditional 1 hour weights + 30 cardio.
We encourage you to try this high intensity workout routine for a month and see for yourself. If you’d like any help with planning or coaching, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be happy to get you started.
- http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ_Seminars_TrainingGuide_L1English.pdf, p. 12.