Tag Archives: strength training

Why no cardio, Raj?

My honest answer…

1. I only like to do stuff that makes sense.

2. I stay away from doing anything that is counter-productive.

3. My time is very valuable and I’d rather spend it on something I enjoy than on a stupid machine which spits out random numbers.

While such an answer sounds cool, it is of no good to anyone interested in the topic. So, in this post, I’ll try to be less of a smart-ass and actually explain why I recommend against ‘doing cardio’.

Before we get on with the post

Allow me to clarify a couple of things.

1. Most people “do cardio” in order to lose ‘weight’ and/or to improve their cardiovascular health. These people are, for the most part, found running on treadmills or dominating the EFX/stepper and are driven by numbers (calories burned, total time etc.) that appear on the screen. These people don’t really understand fitness and do it for the sake of doing it. These awesome peeps who believe in ‘ignorance is bliss’ are referred to as ‘cardio junkies’.

2. Runners or dancers or swimmers or cyclists who do what they do ‘cos they enjoy it and people who train towards endurance goals (triathlons etc.) are not considered cardio junkies and what they do isn’t considered ‘cardio’ but is considered training or enjoying an activity.

Doing cardio vs. working the cardiovascular system

You see, cardio, as it is affectionately called by bodybuilders and elliptical-loving-fatties alike, actually means any activity that works the cardiovascular system and anything that raises your heart rate, from skiing to sex, can be considered as “cardio”. The benefits of cardiovascular exercise, as normally proclaimed, are –

  • The heart muscle develops more muscular walls and becomes stronger
  • The heart beats at a slower rate when resting.
  • The heart is able to squeeze a greater volume of blood out per contraction.
  • Recovery after exercise is enhanced.
  • The heart becomes more efficient (ie delivers more blood with less effort).
  • The lungs become more efficient at delivering oxygen.
  • Increased elasticity of the arteries thus improving circulation.
  • Increased numbers of capillaries within muscles, improving circulation.
  • Our blood volume increases enabling greater uptake and delivery of oxygen to our bodies.
  • Blood Cholesterol Levels decrease.
  • Endorphins may be released causing us to feel happier and healthier.
  • Increased calorie expenditure and higher metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories).

While I agree that the effects of cardiovascular exercise are pretty awesome, I disagree that you need to “do cardio” to reap these benefits.

The thing is, the act of optimally working the cardiovascular system is extremely beneficial with respect to fat loss and cardiovascular health. No question about that. But, unfortunately, “doing cardio” the traditional way is not the optimal way to losing fat or improving cardiovascular health. If you have read my article, The Cardio Conundrum, you’d know why traditional cardio is ineffective and, actually, detrimental to both fat loss and cardiovascular health. If you haven’t read it, well, read it now. It is a simple read which will answer most, if not all, of your questions.

Adding sense to fitness – Strength training

While the benefits of strength training range from better bone mineral density to washboard abs, I like Rip’s reasoning to strength train…

Stronger people are just harder to kill.

This being the case, I think it is obvious that, in order to train completely and optimally towards fitness and health, one needs to work both the muscular and neuromuscular systems (strength training) and the cardiovascular system (cardio) in order to produce not just superior health, but also, the body of his/her dreams.

I know what you’re thinking –

So this means I need to strength train and do traditional cardio right? So how about I do resistance training 3 days a week and then spend 60-70 min on the treadmill/elliptical for the other 4 days? Should I do cardio first thing in the morning and strength training in the evening?

Stop the mind chatter and listen up!

Strength training is cardio!

While trying out new workouts is always fun, Arvind and I realized that, the constant effort to novelty resulted in lack of focus and too much time investment. So in order to restrict ourselves from drifting away from our personal goals we made a decision. We said all our workouts need to be completed within 40 mins + stretching. Warm-up was not an issue ‘cos we workout right after coaching the The Quad’s BootCamp.

So last morning, we set the timer to 40 mins and got to work. This is what I got done…

  • Quick dynamic full-body warm-up & mobility work
  • Weighted pullups: BW + 16 kg x 4
  • Weighted pushups: BW + 34 kg x 8
  • Squats jumps: BW x 11
  • Weighted pullups: BW + 16 kg x 4
  • Weighted pushups: BW + 34 kg x 8
  • Squats jumps: BW x 11
  • Weighted pullups: BW + 16 kg x 4
  • Weighted pushups: BW + 34 kg x 6
  • Squats jumps: BW x 11
  • Weighted pullups: BW + 10 kg x 6
  • Weighted pushups: BW + 34 kg x 10
  • Squats jumps: BW x 11
  • Weighted pullups: BW + 16 kg x 5
  • Weighted pushups: BW + 34 kg x 12
  • Squats jumps: BW x 11
  • Sprints: 15 sec @ 90% intensity; 45 sec rest x 5
  • Core work: 20 sec hollow hold, 20 sec rest x 8
  • Close-grip chinups: BW x 12
And this is what Arvind got done…
  • Quick dynamic full-body warm-up & mobility work
  • Kettlebell clean & press pyramid @ 16kg – 1, 2, 3, 4 on left
  • Kettlebell clean & press pyramid @ 16kg – 1, 2, 3, 4 on right
  • Easy set of 8 chest-to-bar pullups
  • Kettlebell clean & press pyramid @ 16kg – 1, 2, 3, 4 on left
  • Kettlebell clean & press pyramid @ 16kg – 1, 2, 3, 4 on right
  • Easy set of 8 chest-to-bar pullups
  • Kettlebell clean & press pyramid @ 16kg – 1, 2, 3, 4 on left
  • Kettlebell clean & press pyramid @ 16kg – 1, 2, 3, 4 on right
  • Easy set of 8 chest-to-bar pullups
  • Kettlebell clean & press pyramid @ 16kg – 1, 2, 3, 4 on left
  • Kettlebell clean & press pyramid @ 16kg – 1, 2, 3, 4 on right
  • Easy set of 8 chest-to-bar pullups
  • Max KB swings in 5 min @ 24 kg
  • Core work: 20 sec hollow hold, 20 sec rest x 8

We got all this done in 40 mins and we were real close to throwing up! Anyone who has strength trained will know how taxing a heavy set of squats or pullups or presses or pushups are and for those who haven’t, let’s just say, a death set can leave you gasping for breath and blacked out all at the same time. Not the only sign of a good workout, but a sign of pushing beyond limits and definitely an optimal, efficient and effective method of working the muscular, neuromuscular and cardiovascular systems.

So, from a cardio perspective, what really happens when you do a whole lot of heavy multi joint compound moves in a short period of time with minimal rest periods without ever going to failure? You crank up that heart rate acutely, let it recover and repeat this multiple times for the duration of the workout. In this particular case, I did it about 21 times. In other words, I had 21 intervals during which my heart rate was elevated to my max (i.e. 192 bpm or more) and then allowed to recover. In some other words, I had 21 short intervals of max effort and the same number of longer intervals of rest.

Sounds familiar? It should ‘cos this mechanism is the exact same as…

Interval training is a type of physical training that involves bursts of high-intensity work interspersed with periods of low-intensity work. The high-intensity periods are typically at or close to near-maximum exertion, while the recovery periods may involve either complete rest or activity of lower intensity.

Why is this awesome? 

Because such a well structured training session as this is your one stop for all things fitness! Such workouts when performed at reasonable frequency…

1. Make you stronger with a higher metabolism, stronger bones, reduced risk of injury and much better body composition due to the focus on resistance training.

2. Produce better results with respect to fat loss and heart health since this is truly HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) which works the cardiovascular system better than traditional medium intensity cardio does.

3. Is time efficient since you get both strength training and cardio done at the same time and hence need lesser number of training sessions per week to get and stay fit.

4. Is more sustainable due to the limited time investment.

5. Is what awesome people do!

If fitness or fat loss or heart health or joint health is your goal, why waste time doing cardio and hurt yourself in the process, when there is a much more optimal and effective way to reach your goal? If you can get more bang for your buck, why not take it?

This, my fine folks, is why I recommend against cardio and why we do what we do at The Quad and why my clients get amazing results with under 3 hours of training per week!

Stay away from BS machines. Stay aware of true fitness.

Peace out.

Time Efficient Training – Dumbbell Badassery

While most fitness folks believe an individuals progression with respect to resistance used should go from bodyweight to medicine balls/resistance bands to dumbbells to barbells to other complicated equipment, I tend to consider dumbbells to as a perfect beginner level equipment. Let me make this clear. I am by no means hinting that dumbbells are only for beginners. I am stating the fact that dumbbells are a perfectly good resistance to use for everyone from beginner to advanced levels.

After all dumbbells have been around since the 17th century and old time strongmen (who were pretty freakin strong by the way) used them extensively.

My reasons for choosing dumbbells over bands and cables and the almighty shake weights are as follows.

  • Dumbbells offer the potential to move a load through the full range of motion (and hence, in certain cases, more effective than even barbell training).
  • A complete beginner, who might not be able to work effectively with his/her bodyweight, can benefit immensely by via progressive loading using dumbbell exercises since dumbbells typically range from 1 lbs to 150 lbs.
  • Dumbbells (like barbells) can be used for  legit strength training and for hardcore conditioning.
  • Program design using dumbbells can range from very simple (for beginners) to extremely complex (for advanced lifters).
  • Dumbbells lend themselves very well to jive with functional training aimed at rehabilitation, recovery,  joint stabilization, joint mobility etc.
  • Since dumbbells provide the option of asymmetric loading, they can be used very effectively utilized to strengthen the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (a.k.a ‘the core’).
  • Dumbbells are the perfect no-nonsense equipment for workouts that are super time efficient and extremely effective.

Just like how the existence of Mila Kunis is enough reason for for all mankind to smile, the widespread availability of such an effective training tool is reason reason for all of us to be fit! That said, here a few dumbbell complexes that are aimed at conditioning/fat loss and require just one dumbbell and 15 min of your (otherwise to-be-wasted-in-facebook) time.

Dumbbell Complex – Instructions:

  • All workouts require only one dumbbell.
  • Where the words ‘one arm dumbbell’ are used, you will grip the dumbbell with either the right or left hand and perform the entire sequence. This will be round 1. In round 2, you will use your other hand. Be sure to balance the sides out.
  • Where the term ‘single dumbbell’ is used, you will grip the dumbbell with both hands and perform the exercises in the sequence.
  • The dumbbell you choose should be one that you can lift 10-12 times in your weakest lift in that particular sequence. For eg. Say a sequence calls for 6 reps each of goblet squats, military press and dumbbell snatches. Chances are the military press is the weakest lift out of the three. So you will choose a dumbbell using which you can perform ~ 10 reps of one arm military press. Realize that based on your bodyweight and fitness level, the load you are working with can be anywhere from 1 lb to 70 lb. [At a bodyweight of ~ 145 lbs and intermediate/advance fitness level, I need no more than a 55 lb dumbbell to get my bottoms whipped!]
  • You will perform all repetitions of an exercise and immediately proceed to the next exercise in the sequence without rest and without letting go of the dumbbell. You will rest (for the prescribed amount of time) only after completing all reps of all exercises in the sequence. This is one round. Then you will repeat this for as many rounds as prescribed.
  • Watch the embedded video to get a clear understanding of how to perform these dumbbell complexes.

Example 1: Asymmetrically Loaded One Arm Dumbbell Complex

  • 6 x One arm dumbbell lunge [Note: 6 per leg]
  • 6 x One arm dumbbell hang clean
  • 6 x One arm dumbbell push presses
  • 6 x One arm dumbbell snatches
  • Rest 60-90 sec

Repeat for a total of 3 to 8 rounds based on current fitness level.

Example 2: Push, Pull & Carry – One Arm Dumbbell Complex

  • 8 x One arm dumbbell snatches – Right
  • 20 m x One arm loaded carry – Right
  • 8 x One arm dumbbell push press – Right
  • 8 x One arm dumbbell snatches – Left
  • 20 m x One arm loaded carry – Left
  • 8 x One arm dumbbell push press – Left
  • Rest 60-90 sec

Repeat for a total of 3 to 8 rounds based on current fitness level.

Example 3: Single Dumbbell Complex

  • 5 x Goblet squats
  • 5 x Single dumbbell push presses
  • 10 x Single dumbbell thrusters
  • 5 x Single dumbbell push presses
  • 5 x Goblet squats
  • Rest 60-90 sec

Repeat for a total of 3 to 8 rounds based on current fitness level.

Here is a video of myself doing one round of this single dumbbell complex. I am working with a light 30 lb dumbbell here because this was immediately after a taxing sprint/push/pull workout (My wobbly squats are proof that sprints kill!). But trust me – when I use 60 lb dumbbells, it makes me wish I wasn’t born! So, do yourself a favor and leave your ego at home before you head off to the gym to tackle this beast.

Note: What you see here is one round. Typically, at the completion of this, I rest 60-90 seconds and do another and continue this round till I reach ~ 7-8 rounds or till I collapse!

How to make this work for you

  • If you have never done anything like this before, start with a 5-10 lb dumbbell. See how you feel. Only the last 3-4 reps should feel hard in the first 2-3 rounds. Increase or decrease the load based on that. I’ll warn you now – if you choose a weight that makes you fight for the last few reps in the first round… you ain’t gonna make it through!
  • If you have some legit lifting experience, start off with a modest 25 lb dumbbell and go from there.
  • If you’re doing this as a conditioning workout, keep the load light enough to be able to reach 7-8 rounds and focus on speed of movement.
  • If you are doing this as a strength+conditioning workout, keep the load moderately heavy and focus on technique and exploding at each rep.
  • If you are incorporating this into your current lifting routine, start off with one session a week and slowly increase to two or three depending on how well you recover.
  • If you are planning on using complexes as your only lifting workouts, start with a load you can handle with only slight discomfort and slowly increase the load and/or number of rounds on a weekly basis i.e focus on progression. If you are currently completely unconditioned, start with one hard session/week and slowly increase the frequency maxing out at 3-4 hard sessions/week with enough rest between sessions.

In the coming weeks, I’ll write more about using dumbbells (and other equipment) as a tool for strength training and conditioning. Until then be good kids and share the knowledge!


Six exercises to do and to not do

Sure there are a million exercises out there. But that doesn’t mean you do all of them right? Some moves are legit and pure genius and will benefit you immensely as they have benefited millions of people of hundreds of years. Some others, mostly the new ones with fancy names, will more often than not mess you up and leave you looking like a weasel on wheels.

That said, though I will try my hand at as many different activities/exercises/training methodologies as possible, there are some exercises I will do for the rest of my life and some that I will never ever do!

6 exercises I will (and you should) always do…

  1. Deadlift because it is the king of all exercises. Working more muscles than any other workout, this lift strengthens everything from your grip to your lower back to your traps to your entire lower body. A strong deadlift literally means great pick-up strength in real life and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be picking stuff up throughout my life.
  2. Weighted Pull-up/Rope Climb because it is one of the most challenging upper body pulling movements. You’re not fit if you can’t climb a rope.
  3. Sprints/Sled Drag/Prowler Push because it develops speed, endurance and incredible lower body strength. The exercise taxes the lower body so much you have no choice but to get faster and stronger.
  4. Standing Press/Push Press because it is the one (and only) pressing movement that has relevance to real life. FYI – If you’re abs are not sore after a heavy pressing session, you’re doing it wrong.
  5. Plank/Planche because it strengthens the “core” without jeopardizing any joint or the spine.
  6. Push-up because it has more variations than I will ever need, it develops explosive upper body strength and it strengthens the core. In addition to being one of the most awesome bodyweight exercises, it is super functional and relates to real life activities. Also, one arm push-ups are just cool.

6 exercises I will (and you should) never do…

  1. Any kind of bosu ball crap because it’s just sad, lame and downright stupid.
  2. Kipping pull-up because it works nothing. Wasted reps. Waste of time. High risk of rotator cuff injury.
  3. Leg extension because never in my life will I need to exert force by extending my knee joint in isolation. Aesthetics? Not interested in disproportionate quads. My deadlifts work my lower body more than any machine ever will.
  4. Behind the neck press because risk >>> benefit.
  5. Any and all kinds of sit-up because I don’t want to end up with a surgery in my lower back.
  6. Anything on the smith machine because that’s as fake as fake can get. The whole point of barbell training is to strengthen synergists and stabilizers along with prime movers (agonists) and antagonists. By restricting the movement of the bar to only up-and-down the smith machine removes the synergists and stabilizers our of the equation resulting in uneven strength distribution which is a recipe for disaster.

While we are on stupid exercises, this one is a whole new level of stupidity!

Fat Loss Myths – 1

I’m pretty sure all of us have come across a bunch of myths regarding fat loss. Let’s have a look at some of them.

1. Fat can be spot reduced.

Ummm… no it cant. Your body loses fat in sheets and no particular exercise or movement will result in fat loss in a specific part. You, the guy who does 50 situps every morning, increase your situps from 50 to 500… and you will still have the same flabby ‘lower abs’ but you’ll get some sweet lower back pain!

2. Eating fat will make you fat… stick to the low fat versions of everything.

Eating fat wont make you fat… overeating will make you fat. Good fats are extremely important to the body. Every type of natural fat has a function in the body and hence an equal amount of saturated fat, mono unsaturated fat and poly unsaturated fat are required for the body’s functioning. The only fat that you need to totally stay away from is trans fat. Here is some basic information on trans fat.

3. Too much protein is dangerous.

Considering the amount of protein the normal person gets on a daily basis (which is ~ 40-50 gm) the upper limit for protein is pretty darn high. Get your protein… and drink a tonne of water which will help you in more than one way.

4. When it comes to cardio, more is better.

More is not better… better is better. Cardio is important… but not overdoing cardio is more important. Too much cardio is catabolic (will break down muscle tissue) and will result in making you ‘skinny-fat’.

Like I always say, do  a couple of short (10-15 min) high intensity conditioning sessions (sprints, intervals, dumbbell complexes etc.), 1 medium duration (30-45 min) medium intensity session (sports, 3-5 mile run, biking, swimming etc.) and may be 1 long duration (60+ min) low intensity session (hike, walk, slow bike ride, yoga etc.) per week.

As a general training rule ‘As the duration increases intensity should decrease and vice-versa’. [Note that this might be different if you’re training for a specific event or aspiring to join the military].

5. Strength training is not important to lose fat.

Strength training has to be an integral part of any training regimen. Strength training, in addition to all the great benefits,  aids immensely in fat loss by adding more muscle (lean mass) to the body.

The body utilizes a lot more calories to maintain a pound of muscle than to maintain a pound of fat. So, if you remove the activity related calories from the equation, a 150 lbs person @ 10% body fat burns more calories everyday than a 150 lbs person @ 20% body fat.

6. Women should not lift weight.

The opposite is true. As a matter of fact, it is more important for women to lift weights than men due to their increased risk of osteoporosis. Strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Click here for publication.

Oh… and this applies to the older girls too. Click here for publication.

(This website has some awesome information on osteoporosis with animation n stuff.)

7. High repetitions help in ‘toning’.

To any decent fitness trainer the phrases ‘i want to tone up’ and ‘i know squadoosh’ means the same. If you lose enough fat your muscles will be more defined and visible. Lift heavy to get strong. Eat less and do smart cardio to lose fat. Period. Again, spot reduction of fat doesn’t exist. So please don’t waste your time doing 20-30 repetitions of an exercise hoping to see more muscle definition in that area.

8. Including acai berry supplements will get you ripped.

Or you can ask Santa for your 6-pack abs.

9. ‘Fit In Five Days’ or ‘6 min to Sexy Abs’ or ‘Lose 15 lbs in 15 days’ or any crazy crap like that.

Think about it… body re-composition is a process in which your body loses water, cells shrink, muscles grow, muscle fibers get dense, your basal metabolic rate increases etc etc etc. Such a beautiful, stressful and complicated process in a few days? Are you flippin kidding me?

A healthy fat loss program helps you lose 1-1.5 lbs of fat per week. The keyword here being ‘healthy’ by the way. You can’t expect to lose in a few days the fat you gained due to several months or years of shitty eating and sedentary lifestyle. Get real and deal with it.

10. Starvation diet + excessive running (cardio) = Fat loss.

A starvation diet clubbed with excessive cardio will result in ‘weight’ loss. Fat loss is losing body fat while preserving muscle. Weight loss is losing body fat in addition to muscle. In most cases, more muscle is lost than fat. Losing muscle is the same as throwing out gold and if you’re proud of your weight loss I suggest you see a fitness trainer who knows his junk or a psychologist.

Any more such myths you’ve come across? Not sure if it’s a myth? Write them in the comments section. We’ll debunk them in the next post. Until then…

‘If it seems like it’s too good to be true… it probably isn’t true!’

Peace out.

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