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Some of the other trainers where I work have an opinion that I don't agree with, and I need some insight. They say that longer, less intense aerobics are better for fat burning than shorter, higher intensity intervals, and that the longer duration aerobics don't burn muscle tissue. I dispute these claims, but would like to be able to back up my opinion.
While the lower intensity, longer duration aerobics burn a higher percentage of calories from fat, the higher intensity interval aerobics burn more total calories and more total fat calories. Since fat loss is dependent on creating a calorie deficit and the high intensity intervals burn more calories, thus creating a larger calorie deficit, they are better for maximizing fat loss.
Obviously not everyone has the cardiovascular health to perform this type of aerobics, and for them the longer duration style will do just fine but technically speaking, the high intensity style works much better for quickly shedding unsightly pounds. On a side note, I have also seen this style of aerobics add definition to the legs of individuals who thought that their fat loss in that area was as good as it was going to get.Their second opinion is also wrong. Aerobics, no matter what style or duration, will catabolize (literally tearing down) muscle tissue.
The only way to combat this is by consuming enough calories, particularly protein, so your body is not forced to use its own muscle tissue for amino acids, and by combining aerobics with strength training to maintain if not increase your lean muscle mass. Research and real world results show that combining all three elements of aerobics, diet and strength training is far superior to any one by themselves.
I have several friends who attend local yoga classes, and they are always trying to get me to go. I tell them that I do plenty of flexibility work and do not need the classes, yet they insist I'm missing out on something. Do you have any insight as to whether yoga would have any benefits for a serious fitness buff?
As a matter of fact, I do. Before attending a yoga class for the first time I held the same opinion most gym goers do - that it was a bunch of stretching for people too lazy to get their butts to the gym. While I still think that yoga practitioners could benefit greatly from strength training, I am also convinced that yoga has something to offer the serious fitness buff. First, while various teachers and styles vary, there is a higher degree of static strength and balance needed to perform the poses used in yoga than you generally work with in the gym.
There is also a huge emphasis placed on breathing, which is something that can have a carry-over to the gym as well. Yoga is also a very relaxing experience, once you do it a few times and stop being self-conscious about your poses. One of the main themes of a yoga class is that there is no right or wrong way to do a pose, simply how your body tells you it should be done. This makes it easy for beginners to participate in the same classes as advanced students.
This relaxation aspect helps to balance your exercise program, which for most people is usually made up of strength training and aerobics, which can be considered "hard" styles of fitness training. Yoga represents the "soft" style of training, and helps to center you as a fitness enthusiast. In addition, most gym goers could use some serious flexibility training, no matter how much time they feel they devote to stretching.
Yoga poses allow for deeper stretches of muscles you already work on, and introduces you to stretches for muscles you did not even know you had, much less were aware that they were tight. While yoga is not for everyone, I strongly encourage you to attend a couple of classes and judge for yourself. Just remember to keep an open mind because, odds are, it is nothing like you expect.
To increase my running speed, would it be wise to continue to perform heavy squat training once a week, or should I concentrate more on sprinting and just do light squat work?
While there are obviously many variables that should be considered for a definitive answer, in your case there are some general rules of training that should influence your final decision. First, the principle of specificity suggests that to get better at running you have to run, not squat, so whatever you choose to do should support your running schedule, not squatting schedule.
Second, the S.A.I.D. principle (specific adaptation to imposed demands) suggests that to become faster we should move faster, thus bringing on specific adaptations in your body's structure and physiology to support this goal. With this in mind, the moderate intensity, faster moving squats would be a better overall choice. However, you would still want to avoid high reps (no more than 10 reps per set) and training to failure at every squat session. A good rule of thumb is only to train to failure once every 3-4 training sessions.
Now, even with all this on the table the heavy squats would still have their place. Since absolute strength levels are the foundation upon which other types of strength are built (like starting and speed-strength), it is vital to maintain those levels as much as possible during your period of sprint-intensive training. In this case, it would be wise to do a very low volume (1-2 sets) of high intensity squats (2- 5 reps) once every 5-7 days to help maintain your current strength levels.
The Following Squat Routine Might Work Well For Your Purposes: - (repeat every 5- 7 days)
1-2 set of 2-5 reps done with a high intensity and slow tempo
2-4 sets of 5- 10 reps done with a moderate intensity and fast tempo
1-2 set of 5 reps (for Pause Squats you descend and pause at the bottom position for a count of 3 before standing back up).
This would effectively maintain current strength levels while working synergistically with your sprint workouts in producing the adaptations necessary for running faster, specifically starting strength and explosive strength.
I have been told that behind the neck lat pull-downs have some value in developing the outer lats, but most fitness organizations warn against them because the risks outweigh the benefits. However, no one I have spoken with can give me a good explanation as to what those drawbacks are. Could you elaborate on the problem with behind the neck lat pull-downs?
Before I jump into this question, let me first point out that while behind the neck pull-downs may have some benefit, I can guarantee that it has nothing to do with the "outer lats." Since the muscle fibers run roughly horizontally the entire length of the lats, and non-contiguous muscular enervation tells us that those muscle fibers either contract fully or not at all, it would be pretty difficult to isolate the outer portion of the lats. Now, on to the question at hand; What are the drawbacks to the behind the neck pull-downs?
Well, in and of themselves, not much. What happens is that most trainees lack the flexibility necessary to perform this movement properly, and most trainers lack the knowledge to spot the bio-mechanical errors that result from this lack of flexibility. When performed improperly, the behind the neck pull-down will put a lot of undue stress on the musculature of the rotator cuff along with the cervical vertebrae, and can cause injury.
It is for this reason that most professional fitness organizations take the general stance of "no behind the neck pull-downs. "Now, armed with this new insight, and assuming that you have the necessary flexibility and eye for how to perform the behind the neck pull-down properly, the questions become what are the benefits, and should I perform them. In my opinion the benefits are minimal, and I personally don't include that movement in my clients' or my own programs.
There is no sport or activity in everyday life that calls for you to pull something down behind your neck, and there are plenty of other back exercises to choose from that build overall and functional strength more efficiently than behind the neck pull-downs. Just because you can perform an exercise doesn't mean that you have to, or should. So where does all this leave us? Frankly, it leaves us right back where we started - behind the neck pull-downs are still not a great exercise choice for lats, but now you are armed with the truth when defending this stance.