“Better or worse, those are your options”

This is a brief post but it comes on the back of a discussion with my trainers about exercises. It’s our job as trainers to keep people on track toward their goals while giving them just enough of the stuff they’d rather do. A little give and take makes for good relationships.

With that in mind, my friend Dallas Hartwig has a saying about food: “The food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy. Those are your options.”

Similarly, exercises exist on a spectrum, from better to worse. There are no “neutral” exercises (before you argue, I’ll explain in a second).

In the short term, an exercise is either dangerous or useless, depending on the client’s level and goals. So for a population training for health and longevity, a snatch is a dangerous exercise relative to your goals. If you’re an olympic lifter, the snatch is your job. This is what separates a good trainer from a bad trainer: applying good exercises to the wrong population is a recipe for disaster at worst or a waste of time at best.

So why is a “waste of time” exercise not neutral? Similar to the above, an exercise can either make your workout more or less productive, which makes you more or less healthy. It’s like a barbell “turtles all the way down.” If you’re crowding out good exercises with poor exercises (not dangerous) relative to the level and goals of the client, you’re making the workout less productive in the short term, and the client less healthy in the long run.

So as you’re moving along as a trainer gaining ability, remember that just because a client wants something, it must be weighed in both the short and long term to satisfy the goals of the client.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

Exercise Science: A Translational Science?

My wife likes to take the piss out of me. When I was working through my graduate degree, and people asked her what I’m studying, she’d say, “Exercise science. I know, it sounds like a made up degree.”

She’s not wrong; “exercise science” does sound a bit nebulous to the point of gnostic wisdom. However it’s important to understand that most people think they have a clue about exercise and they simply do not. It’s a bit like Parkinson’s Law of Triviality: people have bodies, therefore they think they know how to exercise said body. Given the state of health in the United States, it should be clear that we have little in the way of cultural norms to maintain fitness, and even less cultural wisdom to get people on the right track.

Frankly, exercise is complicated stuff by the simple fact that you have to account for so many variables in so many subjects (body of knowledge subject, not human being subject). This is why exercise science is actually a translational science, a cross disciplinary, scientific research driven by the need for practical applications of science.  This type of science is often used in medicine and pharmaceuticals, because you need people to figure out how to take lab discoveries to trial as quickly as possible, and also to take these discoveries into best practice perhaps even faster. This came about because it takes an average of 24 years for a lab discovery to primary care setting, so long that “breakthroughs” that can save many lives leave so many dying before they can be applied.

The same seed is what has created a movement in health and human performance departments at universities to move away from terms like “exercise physiologist/biomechanist/kinisiologist” toward a unifying umbrella of “Exercise science.” This is because those are all part of what you study at the graduate level and then some. I made a picture with a mouse to illustrate the breadth of subject matter I learned in my studies (click for full size):

Exercise Science DIagram

Now if I walked into a lab that was devoted to any of those pursuits, I’d be dangerous. In the context of the human body and how it responds to an exercise stimulus, I’m better than any of those experts. I’m taking what they’re studying, mixing it with what others from totally different fields are studying, and attempting to mold a best practice that gets at the good stuff as efficiently as possible. I’ve been trained to be the ultimate generalist when it comes to understanding the human body and its response to exercise, which is exactly what an exercise science curriculum should do.

Yes, it sounds made up, but it’s really the shortest description of what it is we do!

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

On Growth Hormone, Muscle Gain, And Recovery


Such is the cascade

This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to growth hormone function in the face of diet and exercise. Rather, I’m going to suss out some of the misconceptions that clients are laboring under, based on some questions I’ve recently had.

Growth hormone (GH) is a hormone which has an effect on both tissue growth and fuel mobilization. GH is released in response stressors like exercise, reductions in blood glucose, and both carb restriction or fasting. Shock of shocks, GH is a growth promoting hormone, increasing protein synthesis in the muscle and liver. GH can only carry out these actions through Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), which it stimulates the liver to release in the presence of insulin. To put it another way: high GH without high insulin equals little to no IGF-1.

So what about GH as it pertains to training and recovery? Well, before I get into research on how GH is released throughout the day and in response to training, I want you to know that at the end of this article I attached a list of studies that show the result of injecting GH on muscle mass and performance. Give it a look after this article.

So training does result in a GH increase. In fact it’s big in untrained subjects (10 fold increase above baseline), it’s not quite as big in trained guys (4-5 fold increase) (1,2). The thing is that it’s super brief, like back to baseline levels in an hour brief (3). Sounds great though, right? Five times higher than baseline? Here’s the thing: GH released during sleep is up to 20 times above baseline and lasts a lot longer, up to 3 hours (4). Finally, I’ll just quote this meta analysis on the subject of GH and athletics:

Claims that growth hormone enhances physical performance are not supported by the scientific literature.

What about GH’s role in fat loss? Doesn’t GH need to be elevated to move fatty acids for energy use?  Well, take a look at this study of individuals with hyperinsulimia in which they lost 20lbs in 60 days.  The drastically elevated insulin *should* have blunted the GH, which *should* have trapped the FFA’s for all eternity…but it didn’t seem to matter because they were eating less. This is why all of those “GH Diet” scams are successful: if your calories are low enough AND you’re injecting GH you’ll lose a bunch of fat. But it’s the low calories that let this happen, not the GH per se.

But I hear you all the way through the internet: I want to make sure I get whatever tiny cookie of benefit GH has to offer…should I avoid carbs after a workout to keep GH high?

Did a caveman tell you this? I really with this paleo myth would die, be buried, and be discovered by Jack Horner’s great^20 grandchild as an anthropological study of how little we knew.

Here’s the thing: GH is made higher post workout with the inclusion of carbs. So am I suggesting a big huge spike in insulin, meaning a metric ton of carbs post workout? Nay, but since you no longer have to worry about blunting GH, why not ensure protein synthesis occurs? A very small increase in insulin is needed to start protein synthesis, which is to say that a whey shake would get the job done very adequately.

Books have been written on this subject, but there’s not been Earth-shattering changes to this suggestion: if muscle gain and recovery are really really important to you, just eat a nice meal sometime soon after you train. You don’t have to rush it either; the post-workout window of opportunity is large enough to drive a truck through…just don’t decide to fast for 16 hours after the workout and you’ll cover your bases

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

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Ancestral Health Symposium 2014 Review


I’m back from the wild, wooly West and looking forward to telling you all about it. Actually, both Keith and I had speaking spots this year and as soon as his talk is available online, I’ll share it via the blog.

But let’s back up a moment: what’s the Ancestral Health Symposium? Is AHS some sort of caveman conference?


Not exactly; rather it’s a conference that gathers researchers, clinicians, and laypersons who are interested at human health through the lens of the human ecological niche.

So you know how they make the animal landscapes in a zoo to be a close to the environment that the species evolved in throughout its genetic development? Yeah, it wasn’t always that way and zookeepers eventually figured out that they lived longer and stronger when they environment was no longer mismatched.

Human beings are no different and we’ve largely built environments that divorce us from the environmental stimuli that help to facilitate health and wellness. This doesn’t mean that we need to act like cavemen or attempt to find the “perfect” human diet (that’s a blog post for another time); just know that there are broad categories of stimuli that we need to check in and interact with on a regular basis to help ensure the right biological cues for health.

So having said that, let me give you a bit of the background of the AHS. Keith and I spoke back in 2011 at the first ever symposium, where we talked about what we do at Efficient Exercise in the context of the healthcare system in general. We differentiated how exercise is akin to a swim coach, which rehab & medicine are akin to a lifeguard. Tasking a lifeguard with teaching someone how to swim is outside the scope of what they’re trained to do, just as asking a physician to teach people to thrive is outside the scope of your average physician’s capability. The system is setup for them to be the arbiters of sick care, seeing as many people per day as possible who have something ill about them. If they can slip one or two notes about lifestyle in at the end of a visit, it’s often discarded by the “fix me, doc” patient attitude. This is cultural, deeply engrained.

The rest of the conference was a hodgepodge of people and ideas occupying a “paleo” space on the internet. It was lots of fun but certainly not focused yet; that takes time and more conferences.

After finishing my graduate degree, I had the time and the topic to present at AHS 2014. The symposium had grown in scope and rigor; it wasn’t enough to just be interested in this stuff; you had to present questions and topics with academic rigor. Doing your homework was required, as was questioning your assumptions. This made for higher quality presenting on average than seen in previous years. It was also a lot of fun to talk with everyone so interested in their subject matter.

My talk was titled “Resistance Training, Brain Structure, and Brain Function.” In this, I gave a brief explanation of resistance training’s historical place in the exercise science literature, discussed the bleeding edge of research with resistance training pertaining to brain structure and function, before wrapping it up with how this is evolutionarily relevant, and where the research can go from where it currently is, before making suggestions based on the literature. This is not “Skyler’s biased interpretation of the literature,” but the protocol that most frequently correlated with these changes in the literature. I can’t turn an is into an ought; it is what it is no matter what others would like it to be.

I hope you find the talk enjoyable.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

Health and Longevity: The Most Impactful Changes Are The Simplest

During this year’s PaleoFX conference, I had the opportunity to eat and shoot the shit with one Ben Greenfield. More importantly, I had the opportunity to do the same with his wife, Jessa. Great people, super passionate about helping people improve their lives and health, and a lot of fun to be around when fish skins are part of the menu.

Ben knows a LOT about the human body. He’s also part of a small cohort of people I know who have willingly had needle biopsies done just to see how many mitochondria their muscle tissue has added as a result of being in chronic ketosis (Ben has, if I recall correctly, triple the mitochondria in his muscle tissue as your average bear). He considers himself an “ancestral athlete” but doesn’t attempt to live in a cave or only train body weight because of it. He sums this up in his article: “The 10 Rules of the Ancestral Athlete.” Note, there are likely some borderline Not Safe For Work photos on that website. However, the article is great and is a long form version of something Doug McGuff likes to say:

Fred Flintstone diet with a George Jetson workout.

Ben has done a LOT of experimentation to push the limits of health and performance, much in the same way any Olympic athlete does building up to the Olympics every four years. However, Ben is curious about the outcome, as his paycheck isn’t nearly as large for all the noodling he’s wont to do. Truth be told, we’re all nerds about this stuff, but the reality is that very little of the nerding amounts to any significant improvements in health and longevity over getting the simple stuff done, consistently. Take a look below, where I plot the time/effect interval for a variety of health marker improvements that result from exercise:

Exercise per week

The curves are fairly steep: doing enough, regularly, leads to the largest changes in health outcomes. After that, it’s a lot of mental masturbation for a paltry change in outcomes. In numbers above, you have to train 350% more per week to achieve 28% more result over what 1 hour each week gets you. If you’re an Olympic athlete looking for performance, that’s worth it. But if you’re not, that’ s a waste of time, especially when you factor in all of the wear and tear that comes with that effort.

Ben even admits as much in the article. He talks about how his wife is very laissez-faire about her training and how much better it is for health:

I’m not arguing that there’s no value to rigidity, self-control, knowledge, and self-discipline, but I suspect that if we both stay on the same path, my wife will probably outlive me and have a higher quality of life in the process.

If you didn’t read the article, the context is that Jessa trains when she feels like it, eats real food when she’s hungry, and doesn’t stress about it. But she does these small things regularly with big result. She’s in great shape.

It’s the simple changes that result in the biggest health outcomes long term. This is why restrictive diets are an abject failure in the research world, why so many people hate “training,” and why this country is in really poor condition. It’s also why those who did the simple habits regularly in the Alameda 7 Study or the Blue Zones are those living the longest.

Simple is not easy, but it’s a whole mess easier than making things really complicated not much more gain.


251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

The Elderly Need More Exercise? Yes And No.



An interesting discussion over at Doug McGuff’s message board regarding exercise and aging. This comment was of interest:

I suggest that the sedentary elderly require more exercise, not less. I am one such. A few minutes a week is not going to do it for sarcopenia or anything else. If I train once a week I cannot maintain my condition, strength,metabolic benefit, motivation or momentum. Nor can you if the rest of the time you are inactive.

Here was my response to this statement:

And I disagree; I think the elderly need more activity, not exercise. Further, the health education research is clear: in the elderly, physical activity and self-efficacy track side by side. The more confident a person is in their abilities, the more physically active they are; the more physically active they are, the more confident they are in their abilities.

If you make a person stronger in your studio, they’re more confident in their ability to do other activities. This is what Doug talks about when he says people want to move more after training for a number of months. Get strong and you’ll get more active relative to your starting lifestyle.

I’ll even make it a nice soundbite: have you ever heard the phrase “a stronger athlete is a better athlete?” The same is true of human beings throughout aging, that is a stronger human is a better (more active, more healthy, more resistant to cancer/metabolic disease/disability) human. (Emphasis mine…just now!)

There is a nugget of wisdom in there that I want people to pay attention to: “relative to your starting lifestyle.” If a person is doing zip and they start a once per week strength training routine that then leads them to take leisurely strolls because they enjoy it, they’re going to do a whole lot better for themselves compared to where they started as far as disease prevention and injury risk reduction. If you had a crazy triathelte at the same advanced age add the same dose of exercise, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. There’s a survivorship bias discussion that will be addressed another time, but here’s my advice: don’t take advice from an endurance athlete who has been training “all of their life” as the gospel…there’s more at play than just hard work!

I digress; elderly individuals should look at their training as an upside-down oil funnel: the widest, part is going to be activity that is very low in intensity but very high in frequency. It seems this is where one can start making a semantic argument that this too is “exercise.” However, it’s really just being a good human animal and setting a functional path: if you move a certain way today, you’ve got a good chance of moving that way tomorrow. The middle part of the funnel is going to be mobility work as maintaining joint free range of motion is paramount for maintaining activity levels. When looking at barriers to exercise, the less mobile people are, the larger their barriers to exercising become. For example, those with mobility limitations cite “poor health, fear and negative experiences, lack of company, and an unsuitable environment as barriers to exercise…”. Performing joint mobility work for 10-20 minutes a day, hell even starting at 5 minutes per day, when mobility is still pretty good will go a long way to maintaining mobility, which maintains activity levels and exercise efficacy. Finally, the tip of the funnel is exercise training, preferably of a high intensity nature. Muscle is the most plastic tissue in the body, the largest endocrine organ we have, and creating a sufficient degree of demand will improve all aspects of a person’s physiology. By its nature, it cannot be sustained for very long and requires a prolonged recovery period. That’s fine, as it means more time for the activities the person would rather be doing, which is going to set the table for continuing to do the activities until the day they die. All good stuff!

So no, the elderly do not need more exercise; they need just enough exercise to produce a body that feels good doing lots of physical activity that a person would rather be doing. Maybe this advice will produce a few more Stephen Jepsons in the world and how cool would that be?

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

More on Chronic Cardio and Longevity

This is a bit of a follow up to a comment that was left on the blog post “Central Versus Peripheral Adaptations.” A reader named Craig left the following comment:

After reading lots of blog posts on strength oriented web sites about how “cardio” and “aerobics” aren’t really that great for improving cardiovascular condition, I was surprised by the first chart on central adaptions. It sure looks like cardio does excel at “pumping up” the heart muscle….

For those who missed the graph in said post, take a look:

Heart Volume

Those abbreviations are for various physical dimensions of the heart muscle. And Craig is correct in that when you look at just these measures, cardiorespiratory activity looks really, really great for the heart. These measures are what Dr. James O’Keefe would call “structural cardiovascular changes” and “elevations of cardiac biomarkers.” The literature calls this the “Athlete’s Heart.” The problem is that everything looks good on the outside, but there is more to heart health than the size of the muscle. What about function?

Long term, long distance training is associated with a number of negative changes to the heart, including:

  • patchy myocardial fibrosis
  • increased susceptibility to atrial and ventricular arrhythmias
  • coronary artery calcification
  • diastolic dysfunction
  • large-artery wall stiffening

And to that list increased coronary artery plaque volume. In a study published in April in the The Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association, researchers found that middle-aged males who had run at least 25 marathons (1 marathon/year) had “paradoxically”  nearly double the total plaque and calcified plaque volumes, and nearly 1.5 times the non-calcified plaque volume when compared to an age-matched control group.

The problem in largely similar to the above: they “look” fit, and therefore the public assumes this confers a health advantage. In this study, the runners had lower resting heart rates, Body Mass Index, and triglyceride levels than the sedentary controls. So they also win the “what is your cholesterol?” game. As shown above, your cholesterol can be really, really great,but it’s the wrong measure to be using in this population to determine the health and function of the cardiac system.

Being fit and exercising confers a health benefit, but leveling off of these benefits from exercise happens in very short order. Take a look:

Dose-Response Exercise

So the first and larger drop in health problems (the steepest lines on the left) occur with less than an hour of exercise per week. After that you may start to look better but the health benefits have dropped off considerably. This is why we focus on this space at Efficient Exercise.

Finally, if it seems like I’m picking on Cardiorespiratory training, don’t assume that resistance training doesn’t have it’s own problems. Joint and soft tissue problems also track with increased lifting volume and tonnage, which is why the “beat up old weight lifter” is much more common than the “80 year old powerlifter who has trained all of his life.” The dose makes the poison: running 5k and 10k distances are far less likely incur the damage mentioned above, just as lifting once or twice a week for half an hour is far less likely to incur the soft tissue problems I just noted.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.




Resistance Training: The Force Multiplier for Older Trainees


I recently had a discussion with Dr. Trey Milligan, owner of Sciencefit in Edmond, Oklahoma. He sent me an article regarding protein intake in the elderly. This specific study indicated that, in older individuals, carbohydrate is required with protein to maximize protein synthesis. More simply: without carbs, protein’s effect on lean tissue was reduced. His concern was that, given his population (older trainees), he wanted to ensure that his dietary recommendations were in line with the prevailing research. Let’s gently dig into this and then I’ll give my conclusion.

Aging can bring with it a host of negative adaptations, such as osteoporosis, sarcopenia, diabetes, and cognitive decline to name a few. The assumption here is that what is common is what is normal. The fact of the matter is that while there is some amount of decline with age, the degree to which this decline occurs is largely within our control. Our body is supremely adaptable to that with you do, or do not, do. So if you move, your body will better equip your ability to move. Similarly, if you don’t move, your body will make you better at not moving. It is that latter that leads to what are referred to as “hypokinetic diseases.” That is, a lack of movement and the diseases that result, like the ones listed above.

In this population, the sedentary older individuals, the amount of insulin required to create a maximally productive environment for protein synthesis requires more insulin. It’s a wonderfully circular situation: if you are inactive, you lose muscle tissue, which reduces your insulin sensitivity because muscle is where glucose is primarily stored. So less, untrained tissue means less insulin sensitivity. Simultaneously, less muscle means less blood flow to the muscle. The way in which insulin increases protein synthesis is indirectly via vasodilation (enlargement of the vascular strutures in muscle tissue).  The only way to overcome this is to increase the amount of insulin for a given dose of protein to maximize that effect in the available vascular structures and muscle tissues.

Here’s the thing: this is not destiny. The research has shown again and again that it is inactivity, NOTaging, that is responsible for this effect. There is no difference in the insulin sensitivity of younger and older individuals with similar activity levels. Further, resistance training is a beautiful “hack” to increase insulin sensitivity very quickly. Regardless of starting insulin sensitivity, a single bout of resistance training increases insulin sensitivity. Endurance exercise doesn’t do this to as large a degree, owing to the intensity required to sustain it.

Coming full circle, if an older individual lifts weights, do they need to increase their carbohydrate intake to maximize protein synthesis via increased insulin levels? No, no they don’t. The ability to synthesize new muscle tissue is largely a function of how and how often muscle tissue is used. Regardless of the age of a trainee, if the muscle tissue is being used aggressively on a sufficiently regular basis, they’ll synthesize as much muscle protein as a younger trainee.

Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

Exercise Doesn’t Burn Fat By Itself, Like, At All

treadmill guy

Maybe the title is a slight exaggeration, but not by much.

Exercise doesn’t burn a lot of calories under the best of circumstances ( think 100 kcal/mile during a marathon ), hence why exercise is a bad idea if it is going to be your only means of trying to reduce fat mass.

When I tell my clients this, it blows their minds. When I tell a new trainee this, it REALLY blows their minds.

In a recent study titled “Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults” showed that cardiorespiratory exercise was “superior” to resistance training with regards to reducing fat in obese men. This made the rounds on message boards and even had a science daily feature with a nebulous title.

You can’t trust an editorial at science direct, as you don’t get the whole story. As a result you have to look at the whole study, which  on the balance is well done. However let’s look at the changes that show “proof” of how bad lifting weights is for fat loss. The before and after fat mass and lean mass changes between resistance training (RT) and aerobic training (AT) before and the change after the length of the trial:

RT = Fat mass 34.3kg −0.26
AT = Fat mass 34.7kg −1.66

RT = Lean mass 54.4kg 1.09
AT = Lean mass 53.3kg −0.10

RT = Fat % 38.8 −0.65
AT = Fat % 39.4 −1.01

Now a couple of things to note here based on those results:

1. This was an 8 month trial and all they can manage was a 3.52lb (1.66kg) loss with cardiorespiratory training alone? Yes that’s “8 times” the fat loss but I could do that with an obese person in 2 weeks with a dietary intervention. To repeat: Exercise isn’t good at fat loss in the absence of dietary intervention.

2. When you account for the recomposition effect of the RT increasing muscle mass (where the AT group lost muscle), their body fat percentage loss was nearly identical.

This study doesn’t tell us anything new regarding exercise and fat loss. Dietary intervention is still king with regard to fat loss and AT only has statistical superiority in this particular study, as nobody who lives in the real world is getting excited about 3.52lbs of fat lost over 8 months in clinically obese individuals. It makes for a great headline but so what?

So what is exercise good for? A whole bunch of other things that diet cannot improve in healthy human beings. Getting mad at exercise for not causing fat loss is like getting mad at Red Lobster for not serving Chicago deep dish pizza; your expectations do not match what it is actually capable of providing.

251505_10151024760092405_1633409149_nSkyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science.  He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.

Integrating What We Do With Other Activities

This past weekend at the PaleoFX conference, I had a number of conversations with people who were curious as to how we incorporate what

we do at Efficient Exercise with other activities. They were having a hard time rectifying how such a small amount of exercise could benefit their activity.


There first thing I explained was simply that we at EE don’t want them to be “good” at working out. Not that we don’t want them to get better but that we want them to do only well enough to benefit the activity that they’d rather be doing. For endurance athletes, this means that they really only need one workout per week with us. The trick is that they need to replace one of their training days with our workout: you can’t just add the strength training on top of a loaded endurance schedule. Studies showthat the combination of strength and endurance only works if some of the endurance activity is replaced with strength work. It’s also been shown from the same studies that this strength work reduces injury potential and improves oxygen consumption.

So how might that look in practice? My friend Patrick Diver has combined an approach similar to ours with his cycling. In this interview, he explained the schedule he used when competing at the highest levels (Florida Pro I/II criterium championship):

  • Monday:   Off
  • Tuesday:  Intervals on bike + short HIT session
  • Wednesday:  Training Race
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: Off
  • Saturday:  Race
  • Sunday:  2.5 hour fast group ride

Total weekly hours: 5-7

Welcome to the gun show.


So if you know any cyclists who compete, they’ll scoff at this amount of training but it was an intelligent application of leveraging the highest quality hours that produce the best result.

What about other activities? It’s pretty in vogue to focus on moving naturally, attempting to apply how humans may have moved and build a workout around it. This sort of activity is a lot of fun and that’s part of my point: you should be doing things you like doing more often with less injures. That’s what resistance training like what we do at EE can provide. Back to my point, how do we mesh the two? Again, Patrick’s answer is more succinct than I could provide:

My take on it goes like this:  do a (high quality strength) session once a week to cover your bases, and then go jump, roll, fight, climb, cycle or whatever else that seems like fun to you.

Remember, unless you have a specific performance goal that pertains to the gym, you don’t have to spend much time there to get the benefits to health and vitality. This is also true if you’re attempting to improve the performance of other activities. The gym only improves the baseline strength of the muscles involved; you’ve got to use them in the activity to maximally transfer that raw strength.

It’s really that simple.