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Body by Science vs Younger Next Year
Old 03-01-2011, 10:17 AM   #1
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Body by Science vs Younger Next Year

Reading the recent exercise and mice thread prompted my to start a thread discussing high intensity training and high intensity interval training as compared to the more traditional 6 days a week approach outlined in Younger Next Year. I read Younger Next Year a couple of years ago (probably based on a thread here somewhere - you Al?). I loved the book and it strongly influenced my workout approach. But last week I read Body by Science, by Dr. Doug McGuff (also John Little but his contribution is a distraction). Long story short McGuff spends a couple of hundred pages demonstrating why a series of one rep each of 5 core resistance exercises practiced once a week for about 12-15 minutes is far better for you than multiple reps and multiple sessions. The data is pretty compelling - although how is a lay person like me to really judge? In any event, I decided to give the approach a try and report back here on what I see.

So, I gave the recommended workout a try this morning. OMG - this approach really kicked my butt! The key is taking the resistance excerises to total failure which is very difficult to do. At the next to last lift your body is screaming stop but you have to continue until you can't move the weight at all for 10 seconds. By that time you have depleted your strength by ~40% and (allegedly) kick off a series of metabolic responses that need several days of recovery. According to McGuff's research, repeating this with further reps has no beneficial effects and can impede effectiveness. At the end of the 5 exercises I was huffing like nobody's business. I needed to hold the railing coming down the stairs at the gym. Notwithstanding the effort I hadn't really put my body in any danger since the resistance exercises are performed slowly (10 seconds up, 10 seconds down) which uses a lighter weight than with fast movements. I plan to keep this up for the next twelve weeks and see if I double my strength per the book - I will report back

One problem I have with the book is that it seems to imply (without explicitly stating it) that additional endurance type exercises offer no or little additional benefit. I find that hard to believe. I am an avid cycler (~100 miles a week) and feel better for it. Who knows maybe I won't need it after my 12 minutes but I will keep that up just because I like biking. I also find it hard to believe that some sort of low intensity regular activity (e.g. walking) isn't an important factor in overall fitness. In any event, these things are not going to hurt and are fun so they will stay in my bag.

Another aspect of this subject I would welcome any anecdotes about is high intensity interval training (HIIT) which is similar to the high intensity resistance regime (HIT). HIIT involves short, intense sprints followed by brief slower recoveries. Here we are talking bikes, running or swimming. Like HIT, HIIT involves a short set, not a long endurance set. I plan to research this a bit and may add some stationary bike sprints to the mix if that appears to be called for. As I understand it, we are talking very brief (30 sec - 1 minute) all out sprints followed by 2 minute recovery cruising or something of that nature.

Edit: I should have added a concluding statement differentiating the two approaches. Younger Next Year's mantra is 'work out hard six days for the rest of your life." I have tried to incorporate the lessons but have to admit that I don't really live up to the "hard six days a week" aspects. Body by Science in contrast is saying "for fitness and health - work out briefly but intensely once a week, anything beyond that can be for fun and skill development."
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:38 AM   #2
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I'm a big believer in the HIT approach - it makes sense, although I wouldn't throw out the regular aerobic mechanism. If I understand correctly, 2-3 X weekly for the HIT approach and then the other days 30 minutes or so with the regular aero, although you don't necessarily need to challenge yourself, just move to get the heart rate moving.

I bought an Xiser to do the HIT stuff - I've also used stationary bikes - you can use the Tabata protocol (8 sets of 20 seconds all out, 10 seconds rest - as you progress through the sets, it gets harder - great research done on much older patients with CHF and how they recovered using this protocol) or some other (30 seconds all out-30 seconds rest or minimal exrtion - 10 sets of this) - just need to really go all out when sprinting - I am wiped after the time amount - it is amazing how quickly you burn out, but you are trying to maximize the lactic acid and really stress your system - it supposedly 'torches' the fat and juices up your metabolism as well. I noticed over a two week period, I was a much faster runner, too.

There are also 'all body workouts' which use body weight and resistance as well as HIT intervals combined in a 20 minute session that can help keep one fit. Again, the HIT session needs to be intense and the body weight mechanisms need to be challenging - one can progress to different levels. Lots of info on the web with different techniques. CrossFit is one of those techniques - 3 exercises daily which challenge you to failure and/or HIT. 20 minutes long - 30 minutes at the most.
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:53 AM   #3
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I'm a big believer in the HIT approach - it makes sense, although I wouldn't throw out the regular aerobic mechanism. If I understand correctly, 2-3 X weekly for the HIT approach and then the other days 30 minutes or so with the regular aero,
According to McGuff, the data show that HIT resistance training is more effective once a week and provides the cardio you need for health and fitness. It seems hard to believe for me and I certainly will not stop riding. But if the science bears out, a brief, intense HIT regimen coupled with my bike riding (tossed in for fun and just in case) should be just the ticket.
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:54 AM   #4
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Another aspect of this subject I would welcome any anecdotes about is high intensity interval training (HIIT) which is similar to the high intensity resistance regime (HIT). HIIT involves short, intense sprints followed by brief slower recoveries. Here we are talking bikes, running or swimming. Like HIT, HIIT involves a short set, not a long endurance set. I plan to research this a bit and may add some stationary bike sprints to the mix if that appears to be called for. As I understand it, we are talking very brief (30 sec - 1 minute) all out sprints followed by 2 minute recovery cruising or something of that nature.
You've pretty much described a taekwondo workout.

There are substantial benefits from forcing the body to cope with the effects of oxygen deprivation and anaerobic endurance. One of them is the ability to focus and exert through an extraordinary amount of pain... some of it coming from your body, some of it being "imposed" by your sparring partner. Of course the next morning you're not going to just hop out of bed and scamper off to a "Younger Next Year" workout. Not at my age anyway.

I've noticed that while these HIIT workouts improve muscle performance (faster kicks, improved form, better accuracy) that I still need cardio endurance. Even just 15 minutes on a treadmill or elliptical 2x/week makes a big difference. Dammit.
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Old 03-01-2011, 11:55 AM   #5
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McGuff spends a couple of hundred pages demonstrating why a series of one rep each of 5 core resistance exercises practiced once a week for about 12-15 minutes is far better for you than multiple reps and multiple sessions.
I'm not clear on this.
Do you really mean one rep, or actually one set (a series of reps)?
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Fun has some value too..
Old 03-01-2011, 12:08 PM   #6
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Fun has some value too..

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According to McGuff, the data show that HIT resistance training is more effective once a week and provides the cardio you need for health and fitness. It seems hard to believe for me and I certainly will not stop riding. But if the science bears out, a brief, intense HIT regimen coupled with my bike riding (tossed in for fun and just in case) should be just the ticket.
I think you have put your finger on an important point when you mention fun.

It seems to me that the main value in both of these programs might be that a new program increases interest, resulting in more activity and more variety in your activity patterns.

Think of yourself during childhood - - most of us were active, truly enjoyed activity, and enjoyed the benefits of good health. And our activity was mostly motivated by our desire to have fun.

To me, the best kind of workout is the one that is FUN and well rounded. I have really been enjoying my new recumbent bike and the programs on it are sometimes hard but a lot of fun. I also won't forget my strength training that I have always loved and do at the gym right now, but I am glad that I finally found a form of cardio that I like better.

It's all good. If I was wondering whether to follow Body by Science or Younger Next Year, I'd try both like you are doing and then do whatever felt best and was most rewarding and fun. Also like Nords I believe in covering both cardio and strength at least to some extent.
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Old 03-01-2011, 12:45 PM   #7
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I prefer to take something from both.

Most "experts" say, and I agree, that free weights are better than machines, in terms of fitness gained v. effort. However, I use mostly machines because a) it's faster, and b) it's safer to lift heavy without a spotter.

Most "experts" say that lifting heavier and less often maximizes strength gains while minimizing time spent. However, as an "older gentleman", I try to lift heavy, while maintaining some margin of safety for protecting creaky joints.

As for "cardio", I do low intensity activity, i.e. walking, every other day, and more intense, albeit shorter, weight work a couple of days a week. Throw in some more "intense" cardio, i.e. bicycling, one or two days on the weekend.

Granted, it would probably take more work than this to be a bodybuilder, or pro athlete. But this is a good compromise for someone who wants to maintain fitness and strength, i.e. training for life...
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Old 03-01-2011, 12:46 PM   #8
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I'm not clear on this.
Do you really mean one rep, or actually one set (a series of reps)?
Sorry, one set around 8-10 reps. Most trainers push multiple sets which this book argues is counterproductive.

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I think you have put your finger on an important point when you mention fun.

It's all good. If I was wondering whether to follow Body by Science or Younger Next Year, I'd try both like you are doing and then do whatever felt best and was most rewarding and fun. Also like Nords I believe in covering both cardio and strength at least to some extent.
The book argues that the short resistance training sets will deliver all the cardio benefits you need for fitness and health (thus leaving evrything else like biking and hiking to be dealt with in the fun category). That distinguishes it dramatically from Younger Next Year that counsels extensive "cardio" 6 days a week.
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Old 03-01-2011, 12:49 PM   #9
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Most "experts" say, and I agree, that free weights are better than machines, in terms of fitness gained v. effort. However, I use mostly machines because a) it's faster, and b) it's safer to lift heavy without a spotter.
Body by Science recommends machines over free weights. They believe good machines can better deliver the optimum workout with consistency and the least danger of injury. They do describe sets using free weight as an alternative for those who want to go that way.
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Old 03-01-2011, 12:54 PM   #10
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I prefer to take something from both.

Most "experts" say, and I agree, that free weights are better than machines, in terms of fitness gained v. effort. However, I use mostly machines because a) it's faster, and b) it's safer to lift heavy without a spotter.

Most "experts" say that lifting heavier and less often maximizes strength gains while minimizing time spent. However, as an "older gentleman", I try to lift heavy, while maintaining some margin of safety for protecting creaky joints.

As for "cardio", I do low intensity activity, i.e. walking, every other day, and more intense, albeit shorter, weight work a couple of days a week. Throw in some more "intense" cardio, i.e. bicycling, one or two days on the weekend.

Granted, it would probably take more work than this to be a bodybuilder, or pro athlete. But this is a good compromise for someone who wants to maintain fitness and strength, i.e. training for life...
+1! My mind and muscles say bring on the train to failure and anaerobic workouts, but my knees, wrists, and shoulders veto them everytime, now, so I do what you do.
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Old 03-01-2011, 12:56 PM   #11
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Sorry, one set around 8-10 reps. Most trainers push multiple sets which this book argues is counterproductive.


The book argues that the short resistance training sets will deliver all the cardio benefits you need for fitness and health (thus leaving evrything else like biking and hiking to be dealt with in the fun category). That distinguishes it dramatically from Younger Next Year that counsels extensive "cardio" 6 days a week.
Being no paragon of athleticism, when I do my strength training on the machines at the gym my heart rate goes up just like it does when I do cardio. I try to move from machine to machine without standing around and talking (just resting briefly between sets), and I work out on 17 weight machines for a minimum of at least 30-40 minutes total, three times a week. So, I think the book is correct that you don't have to be doing cardio to get cardio benefits. Still, I can't imagine maintaining a reasonable level of physical fitness from 12-15 minutes of working out on weight machines just once each week. Maybe he is right but it's not for me.

My doctor wants me to do 30 minutes of cardio 5 days a week, and he doesn't give a hoot about strength. So, I think it can't do any harm to do both but I wasn't always completing my cardio because, to tell you the truth, I didn't like doing it and I have an inventive mind that can think of every excuse in the book. I'm just glad that now I have found a form of cardio that for me is actually FUN (at least for now), in the same way that weight machines are fun for me.

I remember how much fun recess was as a kid, and to me my workouts are, and should be, like recess for grownups... something that I look forward to with glee. Well, after I actually GET to the gym. That's the hardest part.
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Old 03-01-2011, 01:18 PM   #12
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Being no paragon of athleticism, when I do my strength training on the machines at the gym my heart rate goes up just like it does when I do cardio. I try to move from machine to machine without standing around and talking (just resting briefly between sets), and I work out on 17 weight machines for a minimum of at least 30 minutes total, three times a week. So, I think the book is correct that you don't have to be doing cardio to get cardio benefits. Still, I can't imagine maintaining a reasonable level of physical fitness from 12-15 minutes of working out on weight machines just once each week. Maybe he is right but it's not for me.
It isn't easy but you should give it a try - it really is something. You would slow down your lifting rate on a few key machines (chest press, rowing, pulldown, overhead lift, and leg press). Keep the movement as slow as you can while keeping it smooth ~ 10 seconds up, 10 seconds down. Keep at it until your body is screaming at you to stop and the movement is glacial. Then (this is key) keep pushing for ten seconds when you can no longer move the weight at all. The full set should take no more than about 2 minutes. Move on to the next machine at your quick pace. At the end you will be huffing and puffing and (according to the book) will benefit from 6 or 7 days of recovery before doing it again.
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Old 03-01-2011, 01:21 PM   #13
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It isn't easy but you should give it a try - it really is something. You would slow down your lifting rate on a few key machines (chest press, rowing, pulldown, overhead lift, and leg press). Keep the movement as slow as you can while keeping it smooth ~ 10 seconds up, 10 seconds down. Keep at it until your body is screaming at you to stop and the movement is glacial. Then (this is key) keep pushing for ten seconds when you can no longer move the weight at all. The full set should take no more than about 2 minutes. Move on to the next machine at your quick pace. At the end you will be huffing and puffing and (according to the book) will benefit from 6 or 7 days of recovery before doing it again.
I'll try it! I already work out on all five of those machines, which are some of my favorites, so it wouldn't do any harm to do it that way once a week. I already try to keep it slow but maybe not glacial and I haven't been going to where I can't move the weight. Might be fun to try this once a week (and do my regular workout as always on other days).
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Old 03-01-2011, 03:07 PM   #14
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I'll try it! I already work out on all five of those machines, which are some of my favorites, so it wouldn't do any harm to do it that way once a week. I already try to keep it slow but maybe not glacial and I haven't been going to where I can't move the weight. Might be fun to try this once a week (and do my regular workout as always on other days).
You'll find that lifting heavy and slow will definitely wear your butt out... Might need more rest/recovery than usual.

Here's an interesting take on fitness: The Characteristics of Hunter-Gatherer Fitness | Mark's Daily Apple
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Old 03-01-2011, 04:28 PM   #15
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I used HIT for a year in college. I found it was too hard to be sustainable. That was back when I tied my self worth to my body image and was extremely motivated to exercise.

These days, I try to do a little more than I did the day before, and choose exercise I enjoy. I lift free weights for multiple sets of multiple reps, then try to walk a few times a week. It's fun and more effective for me.

Very few people that successfully exercise over the long term do it with activity that is painful or unpleasant. You gotta enjoy it.
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Old 03-01-2011, 04:54 PM   #16
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Very few people that successfully exercise over the long term do it with activity that is painful or unpleasant. You gotta enjoy it.
I agree, essentially, except there's no way I'm ever going to enjoy exercise. It's medicine. I couldn't sustain HIT. My method is to do exactly the same routine every morning so I can avoid thinking about it at all, as I'm doing it.
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Old 03-01-2011, 05:06 PM   #17
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I've come to some of the same conclusions. But here's what I've found about the super-slow weight lifting to failure, and the high-intensity interval sprints:

Your body will say "I really don't want to do this." That is, it's hard to make yourself go through with it, especially on a regular basis. Perhaps that indicates that it's good for you.

As for very long walks, or 4-6 hour bike rides, one benefit is that those hours are hours that you are not sitting on your butt. I think that may be important.

As for only needing it once a week, it may be true, and that would be great, but I don't want to risk trying that. I wish I could know for sure, and I'd get 6 exercise holidays per week. For now, I'll stick with 6 days/week.

I just got back from a wonderful 35 mile bike ride in the sun, with a great tailwind coming home.

Thanks for the info, Don, keep us posted.
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Old 03-01-2011, 05:23 PM   #18
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As for weight machines, here's why I will go to a machine from free weights at some point (probably the point at which I see a good one at a garage sale):

I currently do, for example, about 10 reps of a bench press with two 45 pound dumbbells (I know this is relatively wimpy).

The thing is I need to lift those off the floor, and waddle into position straddling the bench. It's kind of risky, and one false move could lead to a pulled muscle in my back. And then, I have to leave some energy to get the dumbbells down, do a sit up and walk backwards off the bench and put them down. I can't risk expending all my energy, and being exhausted with 90 pounds of iron above my head.

With a machine, there would be no worries.
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Old 03-01-2011, 05:50 PM   #19
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Very few people that successfully exercise over the long term do it with activity that is painful or unpleasant. You gotta enjoy it.
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I agree, essentially, except there's no way I'm ever going to enjoy exercise. It's medicine. I couldn't sustain HIT
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I've come to some of the same conclusions.

As for very long walks, or 4-6 hour bike rides, one benefit is that those hours are hours that you are not sitting on your butt. I think that may be important.
We shall see how I do after a few weeks. What interests me is the concept that one brief HIT session weekly could provide my needed fitness training. I have worked out on weight machines two or three times a week for 30 years and never liked it. Boosting the pain quotient up and the frequency down doesn't seem too intimidating. Hopefully, my commitment to followup here with my progress will put some spine in my back. Once it becomes a standard routine...well, we'll see.

Like Al, I value the daily, longer endurance activities and enjoy them so I will continue biking for the long term I hope. This seems like just common sense and covers the aerobic/endurance angle if the book's science is not quite right re: HIT alone.
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Old 03-01-2011, 07:09 PM   #20
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You'll find that lifting heavy and slow will definitely wear your butt out... Might need more rest/recovery than usual.

Here's an interesting take on fitness: The Characteristics of Hunter-Gatherer Fitness | Mark's Daily Apple
I like his approach, including light background activity most of the day punctuated by varied intensity workouts. And then he points out that sex is a natural sort of workout... can't argue with that...
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I used HIT for a year in college. I found it was too hard to be sustainable. That was back when I tied my self worth to my body image and was extremely motivated to exercise.

These days, I try to do a little more than I did the day before, and choose exercise I enjoy. I lift free weights for multiple sets of multiple reps, then try to walk a few times a week. It's fun and more effective for me.

Very few people that successfully exercise over the long term do it with activity that is painful or unpleasant. You gotta enjoy it.
I agree completely! I like exercise that is fun. The elliptical gives me wonderful results, but I hate that machine (because it kicks my ****) so I don't often use it.

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As for only needing it once a week, it may be true, and that would be great, but I don't want to risk trying that.
Me either. I'll try it a few times but will continue with the rest of my activities too. If I can't keep up both, I'll go for my present workouts only.

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As for weight machines, here's why I will go to a machine from free weights at some point (probably the point at which I see a good one at a garage sale):

I currently do, for example, about 10 reps of a bench press with two 45 pound dumbbells (I know this is relatively wimpy).

The thing is I need to lift those off the floor, and waddle into position straddling the bench. It's kind of risky, and one false move could lead to a pulled muscle in my back. And then, I have to leave some energy to get the dumbbells down, do a sit up and walk backwards off the bench and put them down. I can't risk expending all my energy, and being exhausted with 90 pounds of iron above my head.

With a machine, there would be no worries.
I really like exercise machines because I feel that for me they are safer. Anyone who has had an athletic injury would probably agree with me that such injuries are to be avoided. I saw a home gym today on sale at a local store for only a little over half price. If I don't buy it, I'll continue to go to the (non-home) gym three times a week to use their machines, for now.
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