Conclusions About Low Volume Workouts
Last month’s Experiment saw me take my overall workout time down from the certifiably insane range back into ordinary fitness buff land. In addition to lowering my overall training volume, I took the advice of Rachel Cosgrove and dropped the running altogether. Except for 5 minutes or so of some jogging to warm up before weight lifting, Gym Buddy Allison and I stayed off the track & tread. Nor did we spin, ellipticize or in any other way aerobicize ourselves except for our Turbokick (which is more like interval training than steady state cardio).
We did however, do some gut busting interval workouts. We did one off of Cosgrove’s website that was a real butt-kicker when we amped it up to two sets. Not to mention it provided a week’s worth of hilarity with the “over/under” which looked like we were body rolling sans music and entertained a half dozen handicapped people for half an hour along with some fancy footwork that was meant to be done on a swiss ball, except that we couldn’t stay on the ball for anything although it did still work our abs from all the laughing and falling off we did. For our other HIIT day, we made up our own intervals.
The goal was to exercise no more than 6 hours a week. I averaged 10. Despite not quite meeting my goal, it still took my exercise down by about half which did good things for me. I learned two important things (both of which I have learned previously but, as we have established, sometimes I need to be held after class in the School of Life):
1. I am a compulsive exerciser. Actually I am just compulsive, period. Yes, I do realize this can be a problem. Look for a post later this week as I head back to the blog confessional booth.
2. Nothing bad happens when I don’t exercise as much. My weight stayed about the same (which tells you how the current Sensa Experiment is going). In fact, some good things happened as my body fat percentage actually went down 1.5%, I spent more time with my kids and was even able to retain my good humor amidst deleting the thousands of well-intended but nevertheless irritating political e-mails forwarded to me.
It is with great joy I bring you November’s Great Fitness Experiment: Suspension Training. Every month I start out as excited as a new puppy but this month I’m that new puppy that gets so worked up that they wag their whole bodies, drool and pee all at the same time. Today I am that furry, urine-soaked, hyperventilating SPCA (and Bob Barker!) endorsed sprinkler animal.
I’m all worked up about this because suspension training allows you to use the two resources always at your disposal – gravity and your body weight – to make a killer workout. It’s as basic as you can get and yet you still have hundreds of options. The key to this is, of course, the suspension. You may at this point be imagining something akin to trapeze artists or aerial dancing and while those routines sound like fun, this is closer to, well, bondage gear. In looks anyhow. No Gym Buddies will be tying each other up. Of course the month is just beginning…
First step is to get a sweet rig. You can make your own gear or use something like this hot little number from TRX. It weighs only a few pounds, comes complete with handles, foot loops and anchors so it’s perfect for home gyms or travelling. (I’m working on getting a free sample to give away to you all but so far no word yet.) The basic idea is that you hook up the straps to something that a) won’t move and b) will support your body weight. Obviously this gives you a lot of leeway. The website shows demos of people using everything from fences to telephone poles to Sun Ming Ming (kidding!). Just keep it legal, people. Once you have established a connection with a tallish something that won’t move suddenly, you are free to push, pull, jump, squat, twist and stretch.
The TRX people even have an exercise video library with hundreds of ideas on how to contort yourself for maximum strength and flexibility gains. Here’s a great example of a chest exercise. That look too easy for you? Try this bad boy called the atomic push-up. I’m going to try it just so I can tell people I can do “atomic” push-ups!
The Gym Buddies and I will be doing 2 non-consecutive days of full body work. But – and here’s where it gets really exciting – in addition to doing basic weight training, you can also use suspension trianing sort of like a Pilates reformer to work your core or even the most complicated yoga strap you’ve ever met to help you stretch. So in between weight days we will try out the TRX for stretching and core-strengthening purposes. If it goes anything like indicated in the promo materials the potential for embarrassment and/or needing a buddy to extricate us is high. I’m very excited.
Similar to the Kettlebell Experiment, I will be posting a new Suspended workout every Sunday night. For this first week we’ll be doing the “all body xpress” workout made up of 12 different exercises. You perform each exercise for 30 seconds (beginner) or 60 seconds (advanced) with a short rest (50 seconds for beginners, 20 seconds for advanced) in between sets. The 12 exercises are as follows (videos of each exercise can be found on the TRX site):
1. Single Leg Squat
2. Balance Lunge
3. Hamstring Curl
4. Hip Abduction
5. Chest Press
6. Back Row
7. “Y” Shoulder Raise
8. Bicep Curl
9. Tricep Press
10. Supine Pull Through
11. Oblique Leg Raise
12. Suspended Crunch
If you don’t have a handy-dandy TRX or the will-power to fashion your own out of nothing but dental floss and a g-string, you can still participate! (Probably!) Many gyms have some kind of bands or cables and/or jump ropes you can try tying to stuff. Even if you aren’t ready to commit to suspension training for a whole month, I would definitely encourage you to at least try out a move or two. Don’t worry, we won’t tie you up:)