Tabata Training: Guaranteed to Kick Your…

16 05 2012

Last week, we went into a bit of detail about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).  For those who are newly-minted GymGeeks,  essentially it’s intervals of high-intensity cardio for a short spurt, followed by medium-intensity for longer periods (only to return BACK to a level of high-intensity).  Intensity can be measured either by speed, resistance or both!

Today, we’re going to measure it in terms of time…

Tabata training is something I discovered a few years ago just reading and researching.  Having tried it, I can say with absolute certainty that THIS is the most efficient way to get your butt kicked in the gym and ignite that metabolism.

Created by Izumi Tabata, the concept is to do as much activity in 20 second spurts, followed by 10 seconds of rest, then repeated for eight rounds.  This is the opposite of normal HIIT, which has a prescription of “rest” (in the form of moderate cardio) of double to time of the high-intensity activity.

Most Tabata training plans are only 4 minutes long.  This means you GymGeeks complaining about a lack of time are out of excuses!  More importantly, the only thing you ABSOLUTELY need is a timer!  Timing your rounds is essential to get the full effect of Tabata.

The activity can always vary.  For example, one round can be push-ups, while another can be chair dips, followed by pull-ups.  I dig the versatility of routines, since it causes muscle confusion (probably getting sick of me saying that by now…but it’s a big deal!).

Here’s an example workout video for you guys to check out.  Has anyone tried Tabata before?  I’d love to hear a GymGeek’s experience with it!

Re-Energize Your Workout: Crunches

16 05 2012

You’ve seen the infomercials:  Get six-pack abs in just ten minutes a day with The <enter cheesy name here>!

There is no cure-all exercise for your abs.  That’s the bad news….AND the good news!  On top of diet and sticking to a good workout, your abdominal muscles (actually a group of different sets of muscles) need to constantly be stimulated in order to be seen.  The crunch alone will not only not give you those washboard abs you’re dying for: it’s also one of the least safe exercises, when done improperly.

Since, the crunch only works one set of muscles (the upper rectus abdominus, to be exact), we’ll make the switch of how to REALLY make that set work!

The Fix:  Call the Cable Guy!

The cable crunch is one of my favorite exercises!  The resistance can be great and can stimulate growth (as opposed to the same old body weight crunch.  As you can see from the diagram above, you’re keeping a rope attachment behind your neck and bringing your elbows to the mat (or floor).

There are a few things to remember while doing this:

  • While you’re holding the rope, that should be all that’s going on with your arms.  Don’t use them to pull down the weight!  If you find yourself doing that, either lighten the load or consider the set “to failure.”
  • I’m sure it’s cool to show off and throw on all the weight at the pulldown station.  Consider this, though: like all other muscles, the more weight you throw up, the bigger the muscle is going to get.  Instead of a six pack, you can end up with a keg!  You’re better off doing 20-30 reps at a lighter weight than you are 5-10 reps at a heavier weight.

While I love this exercise, I only do it once a week (sometimes, even every other week).  Remember, the key to every muscle group, let alone abs, is muscle confusion.  You need to mix up the movement, the weight and even the rep/set counts.  Also, like all other muscles, they need rest, so no doing back-to-back ab days!  If you work them right the first time, you shouldn’t be able to do work on them the next day anyways.

Now go get in the gym and try this out!

How To Re-Energize Your Routine

7 05 2012

I believe somewhere along the line, I was supposed to get the memo that Monday is “National Bench Press Day.”  I learned this in college when I’d walk into the UCF Rec Center and see LINES of people waiting to “work in” at each of the seven standard bench press stations on a Monday night.  Granted, we’re talking about a college with over 50,000 undergrads, but that’s just ridiculous on so many different levels.

Where in the unwritten workout bible does it say a barbell bench press is the only way to build your chest?  There are COUNTLESS other exercises that not only can develop the basic muscle, but also the minor ones associated with the main muscle area, thus creating a more defined look.

Here are just a few switches you can make to your routines that I’ve done before (note: I will NEVER recommend or write about something I haven’t done before myself):

Usual Exercise:  Barbell Bench Press
Switcheroo:  Dumbbells, dummy!

This is a bit of an oldie, but a goodie.  With a barbell, you can only get to your chest and push back up.  With dumb bells, you can a larger range of motion, which means you incorporate more muscle fibers while pushing the weight back up.  This switch can also allow you to toy around with different hand positions instead of the standard shoulder width apart.  For fun, try doing a set with your palms facing one another.  Your chest and triceps will thank you for it.

Usual Exercise
:  Tricep Pushdowns
Switcheroo:  Bring out the rope!

 By now, you’ve probably done the tricep pushdown on your arm days since you first began working out.  In fact, some of you reading this may be able to push down the entire stack of weights on the cable machine!  Of course, your range of motion is quite limited if you’re doing them the old fashioned way with a metal bar attachment.

Using a rope attachment will definitely kick your ass if you try to push down that same amount of weight.  The grip alone will activate new muscle fibers.  Not only that; at the end of the movement, when you pull the two ends of the rope apart (trying to straighten out your arms, shoulder width apart), you have a fuller range of motion, which, as we said with the dumb bell press, means more muscles to tear apart (translation; more muscle to repair, which will lead to more growth).

Usual Exercise
:  Leg Extension Machine
Switcheroo:  Hack away!

Arguably the most boring exercise to work what is ultimately your largest muscle in the leg is the leg extension.  Even when done properly, when the hell do you actually do a movement of sitting down and lifting heavy weight in an upward fashion?  There is zero functionality to this exercise.

Aside from the barbell squat (something that should be in EVERYONE’S repertoire), the hack squat (or front squat) is a much more functional movement that activates your quads.  It also puts less pressure on your knees and back, when done properly.  With so many different variations on this move (dumb bells, barbell, machine), you can toy around and see what works for you.  With your legs being your main source of power, you’re better off doing a power lift that’s both functional and safe.

These are just a few different things you can incorporate into your routine.  By making a simple switch like the ones I’m talking about will create muscle confusion, a concept that has made Tony Horton and the people at P90X a ton of money.  With changes, it’ll hurt like hell at first, but your body will see gains because it’s not familiar with the new moves!  You’re basically removing the “plateau effect” you’ve read about constantly in magazine and on web sites (why do you think “Men’s Fitness” has two or three workout routines per issue?).

Anyways, thought I’d share this little tidbit with my readers.  I’d love to hear about some of the changes YOU’VE made in your routines.  Maybe I’ll try them out sometime 🙂


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