I’ve decided to start a question and answer post to change things up a little bit. This will allow more different topics to be answered without necessarily getting into the depth that a full post/article would require. That being said, please feel free to email in questions, use the comment box, post on our facebook page or send us a tweet. This installment is made up of either questions I’ve been asked lately or things that I’ve heard that need correcting. Enjoy.
On the cardio machine, the fat loss setting picks low paced cardio; Is that really the best way to burn fat??
Fat loss is an interesting topic because there are a number of different ways of achieving it. To decide what’s BEST is a whole other story. Let’s get into some basics about energy systems to answer this one. I’m putting it in layman’s terms so if you’re another coach, try to keep this in mind. There are 3 main energy systems that our body uses for energy. These are: the phosphagen system, the glycolitic system, the oxidative system. The phosphagen system uses ATP stores to produce energy used in extremely short and high intensity movements (think sprint or heavy lift). The glycolitic system uses glycogen stores (carbs essentially) to produce energy for moderate intensity exercise and kicks in after ATP up to about 20 or 30 minutes. The Oxidative system uses fatty acids to produce energy for long, low intensity movements. So technically, this setting is correct for activating the oxidative system. However, if we do bouts of High Intensity interval training (HIIT) then we will burn through all 3 energy systems. Your body can only produce so much ATP in such a short amount of time [note: supplementing creatine can help with this], so your body will be forced to jump to the next system when the first runs dry. Thus, we can actually start activating the glycolitic system earlier with intervals than with slow paced cardio. So it still will burn fat, but intervals will allow a much better, more complete energy system response.
If I want to get faster, should I just do interval running?
Following up on the post above, interval work should be meant for conditioning or fat loss work. What people need to realize about speed is that it is extremely technical and also extremely demanding on the body. In order to truly increase your speed you need a structured program and a qualified coach to help you with this. With your coach you can work on the two determinants of speed: output and direction. When you are fatigued during intervals, both of these values would be negatively affected; Your output will be significantly dimished and fatigue will adversely affect your coordination. More often than not I see (from others) intervals as continuous repetition of bad mechanics. So in closing, use intervals for conditioning work but high quality, high output repetitions are necessary to increase speed.
When doing weights, should I progress up to heavy weights or start heavy (over the course of multiple sets)?
To lift a given weight, your body will only try to recruit as many muscle fibers as it thinks it needs. Over the course of multiple sets, those fibers will become fatigued and you will no longer get efficient functionality out of them. So that being said, if you start with 20lb dumbbells and then discover after each of the first two sets that you need to go up by 5, you may not be able to lift 35lbs efficiently by the third set. This is why tracking your weights is important. On the first set start as high as you think you can (realistically) for that rep range because you can always decrease the weight as you get fatigued, plus you know that you’ve also recruited a maximal number of muscle fibers for that rep range.
Disclaimer: Do warm-up sets to get used to the movement and the loading if you are working with more than body weight, then start counting your sets after you’ve progressed through these warmup sets!
That’s it for this installment of questions, if you have any questions you’d like answered, again, use twitter, Facebook, email or a comment below.
It’s About Getting Better!