Look better in the process

Gym clients working out on a treadmill in Apollo Beach, FL.I’ve recommended total body workouts in pretty much all of my previous articles.

Now I want to add to that philosophy. Total body workouts certainly can get you great results if you do them consistently and work hard, but there is something else you could be doing to further improve your overall health and performance, and also your looks. It’s called conditioning work, and, according to the highly respected trainer of professional athletes and thousands of non-athletes, Christian Thibadueax, it is literally the key to achieving your body’s genetic potential.

Carrying around extra muscle mass is a full-time job for the body, and it has to feel able to survive with that added bulk. The body is remarkably good at surviving, and it has a survival mechanism that it can switch on if it feels the need. Such as if we are starving, the body will slow it’s metabolism and hold onto fat stores as long as possible while letting muscle get burned off, because the muscle requires more energy to maintain than the fat, so we’ll live longer if the muscle mass is diminished. The same goes for the opposite problem, if we are well fed and have extra muscle mass on our body, this demands lots of energy to maintain but also lots of endurance and strength to carry around all day long. Thus, if the body does not feel it has that strength and endurance to carry that extra muscle mass, it will slam on the brakes and not let us build muscle!

So, the simple answer to this little dilemma is to increase the body’s strength and endurance, right? Well, yes and no. But mostly yes. I say no because most people think that the only way to increase the body’s endurance is through steady-state cardio such as jogging, biking, swimming, or some other form of “cardio”. Those activities would increase endurance, but they would also be burning muscle, and that is the opposite of what we want. The better way to increase your body’s endurance and strength without sacrificing precious muscle in the process is with intense conditioning work. I say intense because conditioning work should be challenging enough that you can’t do it for more than 15-20 minutes, which, for all you cardio junkies out there, is less than enough time to hit your target fat-burning zone. Coincidentally, you’ll burn more fat from that intense 15-20 minutes of conditioning work than you would from a longer steady-state cardio session because of EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) which increases your metabolism for several hours after your done training, and you’ll even build some muscle in the process, which will make you burn more calories all day every day.

Examples of conditioning work include circuit training with weights (which we make you do if you train with us), interval training (steady-state cardio mixed with sprinting, a basic interval is 45 seconds steady-state followed by 15 seconds of sprinting, then repeat 6-12 times, this can be done on a bike, on foot, on an elliptical machine, etc.), pushing or pulling a sled (it’s a sled, that’s all you need to know), running stadium stairs, and pretty much any other activity that is challenging to do and that can be done semi-continuously for 15-20 minutes. Two to three conditioning sessions a week is enough to increase your endurance and burn some fat in the process, but you can do conditioning work every day if you’re motivated enough, and these conditioning workouts can easily be done after your strength training in the gym (which is how we at Fast Twitch would make you do it).

In short, conditioning work could be considered “cardio” if that helps you sleep at night, but in fact it is so much more, it’s a way of burning fat, increasing endurance, making you a stronger person in general and telling your body to take its foot off the brakes so we can build some muscle!