A Whole9 guest post by Peter Hirsh, a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years
Most people like to get their heart rate up when they exercise, and doing so brings about tremendous benefits. In many traditional gyms, an abundance of seated weight lifting machines and exercises has increased the demand for equipment dedicated to cardiovascular exercise. When you sit down to lift weights, the overall cardiovascular demand is significantly lower than when performing full body weight training exercises. As a result, many cardiovascular programs are less effective than they should be and often even lead to health problems.
The most common issue with traditional cardio machines is that they lead to bad posture, not just because people tend to slouch while using these machines (which they do) but also because they often cause your muscles to work in a very short range of motion. The spin bike is one of the worst, as your hip flexor muscles (a commonly overactive muscle group) work from a short position to an even shorter one, and then back again. Not to mention the rounding in the back and shoulders! Sometimes, this slouching and short range of motion can take place for up to an hour, depending on the person using the machine. Your body adapts to cardio machinery very quickly and therefore you will need to increase the time and frequency of use in order to see the same results. When it comes to running on a treadmill or elliptical, unless you have decent posture, flexibility and motor patterns, it’s as likely to cause just as many problems as it is likely to solve. This goes for any cardio exercise, but running is high impact and therefore epitomizes this statement.
I am not the first person to point out that cardiovascular activity for long durations can over stimulate the sympathetic nervous system; the fight or flight mechanism. In a hectic world where many people are already over stressed in this way, this could lead to a breakdown almost anywhere in the body. Additionally, research shows endurance cardiovascular exercise isn’t as beneficial for your health as interval training. This includes Vo2 max, the calories burned after exercise and recovery. My recommendation to anyone that is serious about long term health and is dedicated to maintaining a physical practice in their lives is to ditch the cardio machines and learn how to interval train.
Intervals can be done in many ways, using a whole range of exercises, many of which can be body weighted. I caution against running for many people but I outright encourage interval running, even sprinting, for anyone with a level of health that is high enough to allow them to perform so safely. The point is that you drive the heart rate up to a level that is somewhat uncomfortable, and then bring it down with mild activity in between. There are many different protocols for high intensity interval training, some dating back centuries. Research has shown that our ancestors would have used short bursts of high energy to move around rather than long endurance training. Many of the exercises you perform in high intensity interval training are also strength building exercises. This might just peel you away from the leg press and onto a barbell to build those quads, glutes and hamstrings.
Personally, I think you will have a lot more fun with your training too. As a person who spent many an hour on the stairclimber, treadmill and the like, I can honestly say that if I never see another red digital readout telling me how well I’m doing, I will be a happy man. The variety with interval training is endless. All it requires is for you to learn to use your body before you start. Whether that means lifting weights in a functional manner such as kettlebell training, manipulating your bodyweight around an obstacle or wind sprints on the beach. Before I began functional training over a decade ago, I often trained by default. I allowed the gym equipment to guide me and it wasn’t until I started to listen to that voice inside my head telling me to learn to use my body instead of an overpriced machine that I began to see results. When I changed this, my whole world changed inside and outside of the gym in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
I have added in a high intensity interval training performed tabata style for you. This is an excellent workout to get your heart rate up in a short amount of time and really make use of that high intensity training!
Peter Hirsh is a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years. Peter has dedicated his life to the enrichment and well being of others and currently owns Peter’s Personal Training where he teaches classes and trains students one on one in San Diego, California. Wanting to reach a larger number of people with his teachings, Peter started Kettlebell Movement, a website dedicated to maintaining the authentic teachings of kettlebell training and promoting a simple and effective holistic lifestyle anyone can follow. Connect with Peter on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or Instagram.
(Photo Credits: Sarah Haimes of Shuttergram Photography)
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