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     The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2014 issue 3



High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High-Intensity interval training (HIIT) is the real deal for building fitness (aerobic capacity) quickly.  In untrained people, HIIT causes gains of up to 17 percent in maximal oxygen consumption in only a few weeks. 

HIIT involves repeated bouts of short-term, high intensity exercise (e.g., 30 seconds) followed by 30 seconds to four minutes of rest between intervals.  The test subjects also showed improvements in power output on a stationary bicycle and blood pressure regulation.  Scientists are discovering the magic of high-intensity exercise.  It builds fitness in people ranging from sedentary adults and heart patients to world class athletes. (Journal Strength Conditioning Research, 26:138-145, 2012).

HIIT became the buzzword of 2013 for the three following reasons.  1) HIIT workouts/cardio have been shown to burn more calories and create more fat loss than regular LISS cardio (low-intensity steady state).  It is no secret that the majority of the top bodybuilders in the world are now doing 10 to 12 minutes of HIIT cardio each day when prepping for a show versus the hour they used to do in the past.  Science has replaced bro science, plain and simple.  2) HIIT training has been shown to increase metabolic rate, which is  the foundation for losing body fat.  More and more data is showing that low-calorie diets combined with excess LISS cardio actually decrease metabolic capacity -- the technical term is metabolic adaptation aka metabolic damage.  3) The body begins to adapt to traditional cardio in about seven to 10 days and the fat-burning component starts to become compromised.  There is  not one shred of empirical evidence that shows the body adapts to HIIT training and this is why HIIT is a better tool for fat loss and maintaining lean muscle mass.

Gone are the days of having two hours free in the gym to train.  Knowing this, it is just not realistic to try to carve our two hours in each day to fit in an hour of lifting and an hour of cardio.  It is much more feasible to remove that hour of traditional cardio and replace it with 12 to 15 minutes of HIIT training, especially when the benefits of HIIT will long surpass the traditional methods and move us closer to our goals. 

A key point to remember with HIIT training is the "high intensity" part.  You should be near your MAXIMUM intensity for the "work" period of your intervals.  HIIT training is pulling or pushing a sled at maximum intensity for eight to ten seconds followed by a 25 to 30 second rest period.  HIIT training is not running on a treadmill for 45 seconds then resting for 90 seconds. 

As an example, Usain Bolt (worlds fastest man) talks about his strategy used in sprinting, and anyone who thinks that the 200-meter dash is just an all-out sprint is dead wrong.  He says that even at his best conditioning, he can hit a maximum speed after about four seconds and maintain it for at most another six to eight seconds before he begins to tire.  Now if the worlds fastest man tires out at 12 seconds at maximum intensity, why do we surmise our supposed maximum intensity can last for 20-plus seconds?  The answer is a lack of fundamental understanding of what maximum intensity is and how much energy you must exert.  I can grab any guy in the gym and we can go sprint on a treadmill at 15 mph.  Now that 15 mph may be at the top end of his speed, he may need to exert 95 percent of his maximum intensity to achieve the desired speed in our sprint.  This is great and exactly the concept you want to embrace.  Now let's say my top speed is around 20 mph, well I would be drastically underestimating my maximum intensity running at 15 mph.

The point of this is don't go by someone else's book of what maximum intensity should be, and don't define it by some arbitrary speed limit set on a treadmill.  It does not matter if you are 20 years old or 50 years old.  We all have our own level of maximum intensity.  You simply push your body to that limit for a short period of time as discussed above, then recover in a period of two to three times of the max interval just performed.

ref:  Joe Donnelly, Fitness Rx for Men, March 2014

Atlas Stones

So I just purchased a new toy to play with at our outdoor warrior workouts.  I've been thinking about picking one up for a while now, and had the opportunity to scoop one up when my buddy Joe told me about a CrossFit gym closing up (thanks again Joe!). 

Atlas Stones are a fundamental test of strength in many strongman competitions, and they have also become a staple among strength training enthusiasts who are looking for the ultimate strength workout.  Their awkward shape and unusual center of gravity when lifted allows them to promote the need for strong stabilization and dynamic re-centering of an athlete's balance throughout the range of motion of an Atlas stone load.  Train with Atlas stones to get stronger, more explosive, and more powerful... whether you're a fighter or just want a fit physique.

Stones literally tax everything from head to toe. In fact, try not contracting any major muscle group like your legs, glutes, back, chest or biceps during a stone lift, and letís see if the stone even comes off the ground Ė fat chance. When it comes to Atlas Stone training, youíve just got to know how to do it right!

Atlas stones can be homemade or purchased from various outlets or strongman enthusiasts. A quality stone is worth the investment.  My new friend pictured below here is 115 pounds and I also bought a mold so that I can make some 80 pound stones.

Atlas Stone Loading

  1. Straddle the stone with a wide stance. Have the stone between your legs.
  2. Initiate the lift by bending over and cupping your arms around and under the stone. Crush it with a strong arm and chest squeeze.
  3. Grasp the stone hard. Drive your hips down while pulling the stone into your body toward your groin. This can't be achieved without a hunched lower back. Lower back and rounded back strength are crucial to successful, injury-free stone lifting.
  4. From the lap, maintain a solid squat stance and explode the hips forward and upward, rolling the stone up your body and transferring your hands from underneath the stone to the top of it. In doing so, you will stand as tall as possible in order to load the stone. The result is triple extension: ankle, knees, and hips. Always maintain a tight squeeze on the stone.
  5. Load the stone onto the platform. Platforms of 4 feet or better are recommended and should be stable enough to support the stone.  Return to the floor and repeat as required. Thick gym matting is recommended to drop the stone on.



Kettlebell Exercise of the Month!

Kettlebell Halo


The Kettlebell Halo is a great warm up exercise for the shoulder girdle. You can use the Halo as a simple warm up exercise before starting your Kettlebell Workout or as part of your workout as active recovery.  Halo exercises help build muscles throughout your upper body, but it targets your shoulders and the supporting muscles the most.  You must use your muscles to exert pressure to keep the kettlebell under control at all times. This makes halos effective as cardiovascular as well as resistance exercises by making your body work without a break during your repetitions.

You can choose to either perform one direction for a set time or number of repetitions before changing direction, this creates a better flow, or change direction after every rep. 

You can also do the halo exercise for time.  Shoot for one minute rotating clockwise and one minute rotating counterclockwise, although you might have to work up to a full minute in each direction.


shoulders and the area around your shoulders. (deltoids, trapezius) 

There are 2 different holding options for the Kettlebell Halo:  The first option is to hold the Kettlebell by the ball, or body of the Kettlebell and then turn the kettlebell over at the back of the neck.  The second option is to hold the kettlebell upside down by the horns (pictured above). Again the Kettlebell should be turned 180 degrees at the back of the neck.

Hold it down in front of one hip with both hands on the handle, then lift it on the diagonal over the opposite shoulder. With a fluid motion, keep the kettlebell moving over your head, circling around the back of your head, then coming down from the other shoulder to end diagonally at the opposite hip from where you started. Keep your back straight throughout the move.


Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)

Considering that I just had ACL reconstruction on my knee on Valentine's day, and have been reading all about what I was getting ready to go through leading up to it, I thought that I would share some of the information that I came across in my research.  I for one was not 100% aware of the specifics about the ACL, the surgery, or why the injury was so common to athletes, so here are some of the details...

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a cruciate ligament which is one of the four major ligaments of the human knee. 

ACL Tears are one of the most common knee injuries. There are more than 100,000 ACL tears in the US alone every year. Most ACL tears are a result of landing or planting in cutting or pivoting sports, with or without contact. Most serious athletes will require an ACL reconstruction if they have a complete tear and want to return to sports, because the ACL is crucial for stabilizing the knee when turning or planting.

Reconstruction is most commonly done by autograft, meaning the tissue used for the repair is from the patientís body. The two most common sources for tissue are the patellar tendon and the hamstrings tendon. The surgery is arthroscopic, meaning that a tiny camera is inserted through a small surgical cut. That camera sends video to a large monitor so the surgeon can see any damage to the ligaments. In the event of an autograft, the surgeon will make a larger cut to get the needed tissue. In the event of an allograft in which material is donated this is not necessary. The surgeon will make holes in the patientís bones to run the tissue through, and the tissue serves as the patientís new ACL.

The goal of ACL surgery is to restore normal or almost normal stability in the knee and the level of function you had before the knee injury, limit loss of function in the knee, and prevent injury or degeneration to other knee structures.

Not all ACL tears require surgery. You and your doctor will decide whether rehabilitation (rehab) only or surgery plus rehab is right for you.  Arthroscopic surgery is often done on an outpatient basis, which means that you do not spend a night in the hospital. Physical rehabilitation after ACL surgery may take several months to a year. The length of time until you can return to normal activities or sports is different for every person. Recovery time ranges from 6Ė10 months or longer.


It's Go Time!

March Madness?  Yeah, I got some of that going on right about now!  Between the snow that has been falling every week, and my recent ACL surgery, I'm chomping at the bit for the warm weather and opportunity to get outside and do something!  Unfortunately, it looks like it will be around June before I can start jogging and stuff (sigh).  However, there are still plenty of things that I can do in the meantime, which is what I plan to focus on for the time being... the glass is half full J

Everyone can use a little madness in their diet.  Of course the term madness is subject to interpretation and can certainly vary from one person to the next.  What I'm referring to is pushing yourself beyond what you would normally do, or what your friends would normally do... be THAT guy/gal that steps up their game and makes people say "wow". 

With 6 months of rehab being the standard estimate for recovery, my event goals for this year will have to wait until the fall.  I'm figuring on at least my annual Bike to the Bay for MS, and the Delaware Mud Run in September for this year... although I do have my eye on another Tough Mudder in October that I'm going to have to hold off on until I get a better idea about the recovery!  How about you?  Start planning now and commit to it!  It's great motivation for your training!

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Exceed Your Potential!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT


"If you don't take a chance, you never really
have one

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