“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” – Henry David Thoreau
We all understand the value of reading good books especially when they come from the industry that we work in. For me that world is the health and fitness industry. Over the past thirty years I have read and have had the good fortune of reviewing hundreds of books.
Before we get to my book recommendations, I first wanted to share two articles that I read this week, the first is an article that talks about the reading habits of a few big name entrepreneurs. The second article also appeared this week on Business Insider regarding the one book college professors from some of our elite schools would recommend to others.
The following list includes some of the best health/fitness/nutrition/coaching books I have read. For a review and more information on any of the books, simply click the title of the book and to find out more about the author click on their respective name. Finally, if you’re interested, you can find my complete suggested reading list here.
The latest research published in PLOS One Journal (April 26, 2016) showed men who did one-minute of “all-out” exercise on bikes experienced significant improvements in cardiometabolic health measures despite exercising for significantly less time. The length of the study was 12-weeks and the sprint-interval training (SIT) group exercised for 1:00, using a 3×20 second protocol, while the moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) group completed workouts consisting of 45-minutes of continuous cycling at ~70% HRmax. A 2-minute warm-up and 3-minute cool-down (using 50 watts as resistance) were used for both groups, resulting in 10- and 50-minute sessions for SIT and MICT, respectively.
According to Jenna Gillen, the lead investigator of the study, “the major novel finding from the present study was that 12-weeks of SIT in previously inactive men improved insulin sensitivity, cardiorespiratory fitness, and skeletal muscle mitochondrial content to the same extent as MICT, despite a five-fold lower exercise volume and training time commitment. SIT involved 1-minute of intense intermittent exercise, within a time commitment of 10-minutes per session, whereas MICT consisted of 50-minutes of continuous exercise at a moderate pace.”
There is truth in saying short duration, “all-out” training can improve health and fitness outcomes, just realize that you need to challenge yourself during the short bouts of intense exercise. Most importantly, be mindful that there are no quick fixes when it comes to health and fitness, if so, we would have less of an obesity epidemic on our hands in this country (a reported 69% of Americans are overweight or obese).
There are literally hundreds of different exercises and unique movement patterns you can do to improve your cardiovascular fitness level. The best one, however, is the one you end up sticking with.
Researchers led by Martin Gibala, PhD, at McMaster University in Canada, developed a protocol of high-intensity interval training that involves just one-minute of strenuous effort, at about 90 percent of a person’s maximum heart rate, followed by one-minute of easy recovery. They reported that the process repeated ten times, meaning a total exercise times of 20-minutes, should be carried out just twice a week and it gets significant results in just a few weeks. You can use this same format but complete five rounds instead of ten used by the research group and you have a great 10-minute workout.
A 2013 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found 10-minute “bursts” of exercise added to your daily quota of exercise, will you results. It concluded that ‘some exercise is better than nothing’ and that by adding small bouts of exercise you can have big impact.
Here are three of my personal favorites to do over the course of a typical training week. They should be used on your off days, in addition to your strength training sessions. Build up, slowly, performing each activity for 10-minutes and focus on quality rather than quantity before looking to progress. When it comes to high intensity interval training it’s about one word, intensity! Use a heart rate monitor to see how hard you’re initially working.
Jumping Rope – Try to maintain a minimum of 120 revolutions or “toe-taps” per minute. Build up to 10-minutes. Work on different movement patterns using both double and single leg routines when jumping. Progress to a weighted jump rope when the time is right. At times I use this high-tech jump rope that actually keeps track or counts the number of jumps.
Rowing – A great full body workout but when performed correctly, 75 percent of your effort should be coming from the waist down. Here are two great protocols to try for 10 minutes using different variations like single foot, double, cross-country skiing and side-to-side movements.
30-20-10 protocol – row easy for 5:00 to warm-up. Then row 30-seconds at a low intensity, followed by 20-seconds using a moderate intensity and finally, row all out, high intensity, for 10-seconds. Repeat x 5 and cool-down. Progress for doing this x 10 rounds.
500 meter splits – warm-up then row 500 meters at a good stroke per minute pace, followed by 2:00 of recovery and repeat for 5 rounds. If you’re new to rowing decrease the work time (rowing) and increase the recovery to 3:00. Record each round and compare how consistent your times are for each 2:00 round.
Tabata Protocol – This is a great template because it can be done anywhere, including in the pool, running, hill work, on an elliptical or treadmill, using specific body weight exercises, on a bike, etc. Warm-up for 4:00 then use maximum effort for 20-seconds of work and 10-seconds of recovery and repeat for 8 rounds and then cool-down. Download a free Tabata app for your smartphone to help you follow along.
There you have it, three great activities, that all burn maximal calories in minimal time. Each one will help build not only work capacity, but also increase strength and boost energy levels.
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It is clear as day that building muscle mass is a painful process that demands considerable devotion, diligence, time, planning, and physical endurance. Unfortunately, most people will stop pursuing this goal within the first six months of training. This is because reaching such formidable level of fitness and definition can protract, cause impatience, and as well as having improper training, can lead to lousy results and loss of enthusiasm. Still, there should be no room for discouragement; a sound body doesn’t go anywhere without a sound mind. Developing a stable and focused mind set is the first step to succeeding in this endeavor.
So, how do you train adequately? How do you stimulate muscle growth and memory? “When muscles are used they adapt and change. Changes are dependent on the type of activity and muscle fiber types used, the load exerted on the muscle, and the velocity and duration of the contraction.” (Marieb, 2004) The point is to persevere through all the hardships, because muscular growth or hypertrophy can only be accomplished through these adaptations and changes. It takes about 16 workouts to have a noticeable ‘superficial’ effect. There is simply no other recipe to do this in a healthy, orderly, and long-lasting manner.
Without a training stimulus, you won’t get any proper results. This will be the main goal that everyone has to with when having such individually rough training regimes. Otherwise, everything can go down the drain. The highlight should be put on systematically overloading your body in a progressive pace in order to reach a momentary failure with each new set of exercise. This is what develops your base level of strength, and the same thing goes with your aerobic capacity when it comes to cardio. High interval training on a bike, rowing machine, elliptical, or plain sprinting will get your body working. Be consistent when using protocols like Tabata (8 series of 20 seconds of intense work, followed by 10 seconds of rest), or Gibala (30 seconds of same intense work, 4 minutes of recovery done at least 4 times).
“Whether training for sports performance or health enhancement, much of the success of the program will be attributable to the effectiveness of the exercise prescription in manipulating the progression of the resistance stimulus, the variation in the program design and the individualization of the program.” (Kraemer, 1994)
Diet and protein intake
Health comes within the body, and, what we eat influences how the body functions. In this meticulous, physically empowering case, it’s very important to keep track of the required amount of protein needed to maximize the process known as protein synthesis. This is what gets the engines running! It’s up to you to estimate how your body reacts to 1 gram of protein intake per kilo, and slowly progress comparing the effects with the same dose (but only per pound of your bodyweight). On average, it will all boil down to about 20-30 grams of necessary protein intake with each meal or snack. The best way to continue nurturing yourself in this fashion is by drinking whey protein, especially after workout and before going to sleep.
Rest and sleep
Resting is part of a workout, just as silence is a part of music. You have to know when to put your previously strained body at ease in order for it to heal, and reap what it has sowed while pumping iron. Naturally, 7-8 hours of uninterrupted, comfortable sleep each night is crucial. This is important, because it reduces the production of cortisol (the stress hormone) which can otherwise put you in a very disruptive situation should it overrun your system. Still, the primary reason why sleep is so important is pretty simple – health! Only when your body is fully regenerated, stout, and free of fatigue, you can effectively train to the max. On the other hand, once your body is weak and spent, you should aim to pacify such ailments and get back on track as soon as possible, no two ways about it.
Finally, remember to do your research, because any additional information that can help you in this process is always beneficial. Consult yourself with professionals, see what other enthusiasts know, think and feel, check if there are some answers online, and primarily get all of your facts straight. The more you discover, implement, and analyze, the better you are at figuring out what suits your body’s growth and strengthening the best.
Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for better life at highstylife.com and other health blogs. Follow him on Twitter.
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My goal is to find the most efficient workout that can be done in minimal time that gets results. There have been some great workouts that have been developed over the last decade but many of them require 60-90 minutes to complete and usually need specific exercise equipment.
Over the past decade I have followed the work published by researcher’s like Izumi Tabata, PhD., and Martin Gibala, PhD. Dr. Tabata was a former researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports and has continued his work on high intensity interval training (HIIT) at Ritsumeikan University. He has worked with many high-level athletes including Olympic speed skating athletes and developed the Tabata Method that takes interval training to a whole new level. When starting with interval work, an individual will typically utilize a work to rest ratio of 1:3 – meaning every minute (or less) of challenging work is followed by three minutes of active recovery (or rest) and repeated for a specific number of intervals. With a Tabata protocol, a 2:1 work to rest ratio is used, meaning, every 20 seconds of work is followed by 10 seconds of recovery and repeated for four minutes. Each 20/10 piece is considered one interval and it may look easy on paper but believe me it’s not. A typical protocol would look like this: a 5-minute warm-up, 8 sets of 2:1 work (for a total of 4:00) followed by a cool-down. The original research by Tabata, back in the mid-1990’s, was completed on exercise cycles. Today, people are using it for all types of cardio exercise from sprint intervals to jumping rope to elliptical and rowing machines.
Another option, for some people, is to use body weight and eventually other forms of resistance (medicine balls, dumbbells etc.) with the same goal of trying to improve work capacity. My first recommendation would be to start out easy no matter what you might read on this type training methodology. I have read some reports that talk about using 30-35 pound dumbbells – great, if you have been pushing the weights for a while but if not, be smart and start with just body weight before progressing to light weight and then progressing from there. The effort needed for this type of workout is very high with a goal of trying to burn maximal calories in minimal time. As Dr. Tabata and others have shown, there is a an opportunity to improve both aerobic and anaerobic capacity with this mode of training (1). In addition, it’s a great way to work many different muscle groups with just a few movements and you have the option of applying this to either cardio (think treadmill, elliptical or rower or even a jump rope), free-weights or even body weight as previously mentioned. Some of the exercises that are recommended are: squats, burpees and thrusters (which is basically a squat to a shoulder press using medicine ball, dumbbells, or an Olympic bar). One of the first times I tried this I used light dumbbells and did a squat to a press (a.k.a thruster) averaging about 15 repetitions for each 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of recovery and repeated this sequence 8 times (120 total reps). The initial goal is to find a weight that enables you to get about 10 reps/set and try to build from there.
One of the first studies completed by Dr. Tabata and his colleagues showed a 14% improvement in VO2 max and 28% improvement in anaerobic capacity. These numbers, however, were a result from training 5x/week for 6 weeks involving high intensity training involving a cycle ergometer. Anything is possible, just remember to begin slowly using body weight as your resistance prior to loading the body. Any type of interval training should be added to an exercise routine using a low dose initially and slowly building from there. Think of HIIT as just another tool in your training tool box, but one with proven results…if done correctly.
(1) Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, Hirai Y, Ogita F, Miyachi M, Yamamoto K. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2 max. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 28: 1327-1330, 1996.
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A paper published by Gillen and Gibala tested the hypothesis that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be used as a time-efficient strategy to improve health and fitness. Their paper was basically a literature review of HIIT research studies that used 2, 6, 12-15 weeks of low-volume HIIT. They state that results of these types of studies show promising results but more research is still warranted.
“While the findings from these small pilot projects are intriguing, large-scale investigations with appropriate participant screening and monitoring are clearly warranted, including randomized clinical trials to directly compare low-volume HIIT versus traditional endurance training in a comprehensive manner, especially in those with, or at risk for, cardiometabolic disorders.”
Research has consistently demonstrated the positive use of HIIT to improve among other things, aerobic capacity, insulin sensitivity, muscle oxidative capacity, and exercise tolerance with as little as one to three sessions a week. Exercise sessions, typically, involve <10 minutes of hard “all-out” exercise followed by brief recovery periods coupled with a warm-up and cool-down that equates to, typically, <30 minute sessions.
Most governing bodies, like the CDC, WHO and Surgeon General, publish content stipulating 150-minutes of moderate-intensity (or 75-minutes of vigorous) exercise is needed to keep disease at bay. Is it time to alter some of these findings due to the abundance of HIIT research that has been published over the last four decades? There is now evidence that HIIT is as effective as traditional, longer duration, steady-state type exercise.
With the number one reported reason for not exercising typically being – “lack of time” – maybe <150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise guidelines should soon be cut in half?; possibly getting more individuals to start/continue with an exercise routine using, at times, HIIT.