Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Information Overload

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend the Perform Better 3 day training summit in Long Beach. PB is always educational and a great time to catch up with friends old and new. I attended probably 20 hours of lectures and hands on workshops over the course of the weekend, not to mention talking over drinks with some of THE best coaches and trainers in the world.

If you are a trainer and aren't going to events such as this then you are doing yourself and your clients a disservice. Period.

Now it's time to catch up on some reading and throw some of the best gems out to you.

First up is Mike Robertson's podcast. He recently interviewed Men's Health nutrition columnist and old fashioned rock star Alan Aragon.

When it comes to cutting through the bullshit and giving straight up advice in regards to how we should be eating to aid in our fitness goals I haven't seen anyone better than Alan.

And the man knows how to eat a paleo cream puff!

Next up, you might have heard of Tabata intervals if you've read anything on fat loss the past couple of years. If not then let's just say it's been hyped as the most effective interval protocol. But here is the thing. Most people that think they are doing them aren't.

Here Lyle McDonald dissects the original study by Dr. Izumi Tabata and comments on the true intensity of the intervals used in the study.

Lyle's article may be more technical than you are willing to wade through so I'll reprint the key points:

It’s also relevant to note that the study used a bike for training. This is important and here’s why: on a stationary bike, when you start to get exhausted and fall apart from fatigue, the worst that happens is that you stop pedalling. You don’t fall off, you don’t get hurt, nothing bad happens. The folks suggesting high skill movements for a ‘Tabata’ workout might want to consider that. Because when form goes bad on cleans near the end of the ‘Tabata’ workout, some really bad things can happen. Things that don’t happen on a stationary bike.

As well, I want to make a related comment: as you can see above the protocol used was VERY specific. The interval group used 170% of VO2 max for the high intensity bits and the wattage was increased by a specific amount when the workout was completed. Let me put this into real world perspective.

My VO2 max occurs somewhere between 300-330watts on my power bike, I can usually handle that for repeat sets of 3 minutes and maybe 1 all out-set of 5-8 minutes if I’m willing to really suffer. That’s how hard it is, it’s a maximal effort across that time span.

For a proper Tabata workout, 170% of that wattage would be 510 watts (for perspective, Tour De France cyclists may maintain 400 watts for an hour). This is an absolutely grueling workload. I suspect that most reading this, unless they are a trained cyclist, couldn’t turn the pedals at that wattage, that’s how much resistance there is.

If you don’t believe me, find someone with a bike with a powermeter and see how much effort it takes to generate that kind of power output. Now do it for 20 seconds. Now repeat that 8 times with a 10 second break. You might learn something about what a Tabata workout actually is.

My point is that to get the benefits of the Tabata protocol, the workload has to be that supra-maximal for it to be effective. Doing thrusters or KB swings or front squats with 65 lbs fo 20 seconds doesn’t generate nearly the workload that was used during the actual study. Nor will it generate the benefits (which I’d note again stop accruing after a mere 3 weeks). You can call them Tabatas all you want but they assuredly aren’t.

Lyle touches upon a point common to just about any aspect of training. Namely that the vast majority of people simply don't train intelligently and with enough intensity to achieve the results they are after.

No comments: