In society today we have an "Instant Results" culture and this is something that also affects the Strength and Conditioning or "Fitness Industry". Stores are stocked full of magazines and books promoting anything from rapid fat loss to high intensity "one month to ripped" programs, but how much training to you really need to make gains? how many people are these programs good for? As a Strength and Conditioning Coach I see many high intensity programs around me from various personal trainers promoting the latest fashion or "Evidence Based" high intensity approach, however for every one of these programs that has a success there are many there are many failures from people signing up resulting in injury, demotivating and negative feelings towards towards proper conditioning. They also in my view can violate one of the central principles of Strength and Conditioning-that a primary objective of any programing must be to reach the required objective free from injury. Injury prevention is not something always present in high intensity programs which don't relate to those people looking for peak health and fitness.

Before I begin I want to make clear that I'M NOT AGAINST high intensity conditioning when used correctly but there is very little argument to using high intensity methods as a blanket approach for every client, and there is less argument still for putting needless risk on clients through careless high intensity "fad" methods. If proper health and fitness is to be reached then each client must have an individual approach with intelligent training intensity applied.

I'm going to provide the evidence based methods I endorsed but for ease of reading references will by collected by myself and available should you desire a list. I will then provide guidelines as to how you can use these methods to program your own Health and Fitness training.

I have chosen to focus this Health and Fitness article on the methods I use for Endurance and Strength training as these two topics are what I get asked about many times by clients.

Evolutionary Advantage for Health and Fitness

During the path of we took on our evolution we evolved every mechanism we need as humans to be able to perform at any or all physical tasks we may aim to perform. The key to maximising this principle is to train for health and fitness a long with our "Evolutionary Advantage". This idea has lead me to one of the guiding core principles of my entire methodology of Strength and Conditioning:
"If you train in line with the physiology,structure and function of the body as it was designed to be used then providing the training applied is correct for that aim the body will produce desired result in an easy and effective manner"
You would be surprised by how many trainers, instructors and coaches all over the world train the body against it's own design. I have seen many "Functionally Suspect" training sessions being provided with no care for evidence or findings regarding a particular methodology. Any work programmed for athlete or clients should be evidence based and driven by hard well tested data.

So what EXACTLY is the best way to train for Health and Fitness? I'm going to outline for you the evidence based ideas for my approach to those people just looking to stay healthy for life in general. For this reason there wont be any in depth presentation of specialist methods, this is focused on general fitness guidelines for general health goals.

Health and Fitness:The Training Sensitive Zone

What training intensity do I use?The majority of evidence supports that training has the following:

1) A high threshold which can't be passed by the training individual. This is normally at 85-95% intensity.

2)A low threshold where there will be no adaptation at all.

3)An individualised training zone unique to your particular make up. This "Training Zone" means that your aerobic, anaerobic and even your fat loss needs will be determined by your own genetic potential. Each individual is different here all though general patterns do take place but the further you train away from your own needs the less adaption will take place.

The key question for any trainer wanting to get the best out of an individual must be how do you determine the correct training zone? We could try using the "fat burning" zone to determine how much work should be done but this is a myth, fat burning will take place at ALL levels of training performed within the training zone. The question to consider is the proportion of fat burnt at each intensity.

We could try a high intensity programs but this is unsafe for the purpose of health and fitness so as a result is counter-productive. We could also try RPE test scoring however many Physiologists can't agree on aspects such as scoring format, scale and even the validity of the measurement itself given the highly individual nature of exercise capability. We can also use the much thrown about formula of deducting our age from 220 to find a max heart rate. This too inaccurate and prone to individual shifts around the general figure provided by the formula. How do we then find the correct training zone as it relates to health and fitness?

  • 1)Begin by finding your max HR with 220-age
  • 2)Find the figure which is directly 60% of that number
  • 3)Find the figure which is exactly 90% of that number

For example for a 20 year old person the training zone is between 140BPM and 180BPM, any training in that zone will produce aerobic adaptation to a lesser or greater degree depending on intensity. Recent evidence has shown that the threshold for aerobic adaption to take place is now not 70% but 60%. The difference being that 30 minutes activity at 70% has the same adaptive affect as 45 minutes at 60%. This differed if you want to train at a threshold described as "lactate threshold".

Unless you have a access to a lactate testing kit then this is the only time I will endorse RPE but this again must be taken into a consideration with a HR monitor. For untrained individuals an RPE score of 11-12 would be an adequate threshold score and for trained individuals this would be 13-14 RPE. For lactate threshold training this is best done is repeated bouts at the given intensity to produce the correct overload.

How long do you need to train for each session for Health and Fitness? This is an area again where there is argument amongst professionals. Studies have shown that in untrained individuals 3-5 minute daily exercise bouts at the highest manageable intensity for the entire duration has been shown to produce aerobic adaption. Wit higher intensity workouts in untrained individuals you can produce adaptation in no longer than 10 minutes at 70% intensity. With high intensity training improvements can occur with 10 minutes of work out time. Should the exercise fall below the minimum training zone(60%) then you would need to 60 minutes steady to have any training adaptation at all.

How many times should you train per week for Health and Fitness? This yet another area where there has been conflicting evidence produced. Some studies have shown that increased training frequency has a positive effect while other have shown the opposite.

A study of swimmer taken to evaluate whether 2 daily sessions of training produced more positive adaptation than one session shown that was no increase in adaption over the group that trained once per day. Interval training when carried out correctly has been show to have the same improvements when performed twice per week as any steady cardio performed up to 5 times per week. Just as with previous points there are studies that show no difference between training frequencies at all.

One general rule which is supported as stated previously is for lower intensity sessions to be conducted more frequently and for longer. One area where increased training does make a difference is for exercise aimed at fat loss. In this case 60 minutes each session at an intensity which allow for 350 kcal or more is the correct intensity for optimal fat loss. I don't have to tell you that training only one day per week is not significant for maximal adaptations to take place.

The evidence will reflect that the training frequency is makes less or no impact than when compared to the total exercise intensity and the total training time managed over a week. Rest days have also been something of a mixed area where evidence is concerned. Many fitness magazines will provide programs with rest days in between a session, but the this has been shown to be less positive than 3 consecutive working out. As with all over aspects of training this area is highly individual to the client or person. For anyone to put forward a one size fits all program is dangerous and a waste of time. What are some good evidence based guidelines that you can apply to your training?

Health and Fitness-Aerobic and Anaerobic Training

  • Choose a form of exercise you enjoy as there really no evidence stating you should fix to one or another for general Health and Fitness related goals this is enough.
  • Find your individual training zone

Fat loss

  • Train for one hour 5 times per week at 60% intensity this should be COMBINED with diet to aid healthy exercise based fat burning.

Aerobic Endurance(Cardio)

  • This should be within your individual training zone but at enough intensity to over load first your breathing and second your heart rate for many people this is 70% however this 70% is different from each individual.
  • The activity yo do should be considered here as this will produce adaptations for muscle groups used I suggest combining any form of activity for endurance with a support program to prevent injury and repetitive strain. For example runners should should perform strength for running and so on.

Interval Training

Interval training allows you make your training more efficient by manipulating a number of training variables which will mainly be the following if yo want to achieve endurance goals:

  • Duration of the work interval
  • Intensity of exercise interval
  • Length of recovery interval
  • Number of recovery intervals

As to can see with a focus on just those four areas you can set use this for any training level from novice to advanced if you do it correctly. This makes the Interval method one of the most valuable methods open to the trainer for Health and Fitness training.In order to be useful you work Intervals must stress a particular energy system. Here is how you can do this to maximum level in one example showing my principles which will use work periods of 10 seconds and rest periods of 30 seconds:

  • You work Interval should begin with 1:3 work to rest ration to improve quick sprint type immediate energy system, 1:2 to improve short term glycolysis as an advanced athlete. For longer duration energy system work for a period of 60-90 seconds at a ration of 1:1 or 1:5 rest. For novice clients I suggest 1:5 of longer duration or 1:3 of the "best intensity runs".
  • For a novice your 10 seconds would be "best intensity" runs at the highest safe speed for their starting condition. For the advanced this would be as close to the 90% as you can get without going above.
  • As conditioning level increases add 5 seconds each week to the work interval.
  • As conditioning level increases remove 5 seconds from the rest Interval.
  • You can use this for any method of the above ratio patterns but for the longer periods use 10 seconds instead of 5.
  • For a solid science based work out that will cut you time in half but working you Anaerobic AND Aerobic systems you can use the following 7 week step program which I have used on my clients for great results begin in week 1 with 4 intervals of 30 seconds 90% intensity runs or "best intensity runs" if you're a novice with 4 minute rest periods. "Step" these times up and down on each interval until by week 7 you're doing 10 repeats with 2 minutes 30 seconds rest between Intervals.

Continuous Training

This is a must if you are new to training or you want a reduced injury risk method of training for heart health. Here are my guidelines for it's use for Health and Fitness related goals:

  • Keep the intensity below 80% and higher than 60%.
  • If you're training for some kind of sport event such as marathon then this is will allow you train at the correct time and intensity levels.
  • If you're training for a distance based even then don't use time based Endurance training, use "overdistance2 endurance training. Over distance.
  • If you're combining this with maximal strength training or a muscle building program then in order to maintain health you can perform 30 minute continuous sessions 3 times per week and this will actually help your lifting and meet Health and Fitness guidelines.
  • You're training maximum fat loss as stated previously 1 hour 5 times per week is optimal. Please be sure to combine this with a strength training program to allow your body to keep some muscle and shape.

Health and Fitness:Functional Strength and Power Training

Before I begin on this there has been much discussion on what "functional" training actually is. For the purpose of this post functional will relate to which strength movements best condition general movement patterns and core strength while reducing the risk of injury to key body areas. Many of these exercises will also have pay offs for posture improvement which will counter some of the side effects of modern living demands.

In order to have a program designed to maximise your Health and Fitness results you will need to combine some form of strength and maybe if you're training for some kind of event you will need limited power based work within that program. For many of the novice clients your start points should be more relative strength based. Relative strength is your strength to body mass ratio-can you handle your own body with good effect? Your second requirement will be to progress this on a functional level towards correct strength straining while remaining injury free. My guidelines for this are very simple. Here you should concentrate on body weight only functional movements which you will progress in difficulty. Use the following guidelines for strength training for Health and Fitness:

Functional Strength for Health and Fitness

-The first progression is body weight only basic movements which will be progressed to advanced variations with stability challenges.
-The second progression is to progress from body weight to loaded movements where possible.

For upper body strength you will get great effect with the following:

  • Basic press up progressed to press up with feet on stability ball or feet in TRX machine. You will eventually include the dumb bell press in the program but only later on and without moving away from press up variations.I also like to use Hindu press ups with clients as a key move when they are able to master it.
  • Dumb Bell pressing for the shoulders with work rotator cuff and scapular strength improvement moves to improve shoulder health which is a frequently injured and high injury risk area.
  • Dumb Bell rows which will be progressed to inverted rows then onto one leg row variations on a step for stability strength.
  • Pull Ups which you will eventually perform loaded with with narrow and wide grip while you super set with dumb bell rows.
  • Chins which you will eventually perform loaded and super set with horizontal rowing of one variation such as horizontal one arm rows on a cable machine.

For lower body strength you will get great effect with:

  • Hindu Squats progresses to one legged squat variations which for my clients are normally weighted split squats or Pistol squats. This will eventually be progressed to using a step or a weight plate for stability progression.
  • Once correct body weight squatting is improves there will be front squatting added.
  • I also add some other squat variations such as zercher squat, goblet squat and one leg varieties.

For core strength and more full body or core focus I have seen best effect with the following:

  • Dead Lift of all types
  • Olympic lifts
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Turkish Get Ups
  • Plank Variations

There are many other variations but these are what I've had most results with for clients. I hoped you enjoyed this look at some of the evidence based methods I use just for those seeking a higher quality of Health and Fitness.

As I said for ease of reading as this is already a long post I complied reference material as a separate list which I can provide. I also want to again state that I focused on Strength and Endurance development as I have found most questions from clients come to me on those areas, this post is an attempt to answer many of those questions. I have for those reasons left out  flexibility for Heath and Fitness, this could be a possible follow up topic for this post in the future.


Post a Comment