Thursday, 21 May 2009

'Body by Science' Workout and Rowing Tabata Finisher

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University

Quick Starter

Swing-Assisted, Uneven Muscle Up - 1
Frog stand - 30 seconds, arms straight

Main Event
1 set of Raise-assisted handstand push ups (2 plates) - 4 good reps then 1 failure
1 set of Weighted chin ups - 5 reps @22.5kg
1 set of Barbell Squats - 5 reps
1 set of Dumbbell Bench Press - 5 @32kg
1 set of Hanging Leg Raise - 10 reps
1 set of Romanian Deadlift - 5 reps @115kg

Finisher: Tabata Intervals - Rowing Machine @90% effort (eyeballs remaining mostly in their sockets)

Total Time: 25 minutes

Post-Workout Nutrition: this, 30 minutes later

I have to know. I have to know whether the Body by Science approach can work for me. I have been flirting with the idea by taking two or more rest days between strength workouts, but that is not the same as what BBS recommends.

Broadly, it recommends that your strength training consist solely of a single, all-body session, once a week, in which you do a single set of each exercise. The exercises (about 5 of them) should be compound exercises that hit the major muscle groups. The idea is that in fact we need a week to fully recover and maximise the potential for gains.

You can add other sports and activities into the mix - just not training that is aimed at strength or growth gains.

So today I selected my own set of exercises which I think broadly fit the bill; and as you can see, I did only a single set of each.

I should state up front that I have not read the book yet. I have just read the great coverage on Conditioning Research (here and here) as well as a brief low-down from Natural Messiah, offline. But that's enough to understand what's being recommended. I just don't necessarily know why at this point.

My plan is this: average 2 workouts per week.

Workout 1: a randomly selected activity that is demanding without causing too much muscular fatigue. Swimming, climbing, light circuits or gymnastics. I may even start doing some amateur parkour / urban circuit training since the light mornings are now upon us in the UK.

Workout 2: today's routine.

The question is, will I get stronger and if so, how quickly? Also - will I feel better? Will I have more energy on non-workout days?

One possible confounding factor - I have just started supplementing with 3000 ui of vitamin D3 (see here for why.) Apparently this can affect athletic performance.

I should mention that I have an article in the pipeline that will expand more on the question of how to structure the week's exercise. I am trying to reconcile the BBS philosophy with the Primal/Paleo philosophy, and also incorporate some great posts by other bloggers on the subject.

What am I trying to achieve with my workouts? Do I want to get stronger, or do I want to emulate ancestral patterns? Is variety more important than progression, and is the latter merely something that has been drilled into us by modern life rather than any genuine imperative? More thoughts to come.


Alexandra said...

I'm experimenting with the BBS workouts as well. I'm interested to see where we both end up. Good Luck!

Chris said...

It is definitely worth reading - even if you don't totally agree with all the prescriptions. Amazon UK has it

Bryce said...

I've read BBS, and it was difficult for me to ease into the concepts because I am all about functional training, which the book essentially tries to debunk in some parts.

I did really like the book, and I think it's principles can work, but unfortunately I don't think they can work with things like the deadlift, barbell squat, barbell press, etc. the HIT principle requires you to go to absolute positive muscle failure in 1 set while keeping your body supporting the weight for 90-100 seconds, but it just isn't safe to do that under a heavy barbell in a squat or press, or with deadlift. You'd need some insanely strong spotters.

Because of this, I think you need more sets at controllable but heavy weight to achieve the same level of inroading that is achieved through HIT's one set to failure. And since I think more sets are required (when using barbells), it becomes impractical to do everything in one day.

I've taken the principles and applied them to my own training, using my weight training as global conditioning, and spacing out my training so muscle groups only get worked once every 7-10 days (which is in accordance with the BBS theory). But since I do multiple sets, I tend to work my lower body on one day, and my upper body on another day.

You can see what I mean on my blog. Today I did heavy zercher squat singles in a rest pause fashion, which I feel closely approximates the inroading of HIT, while allowing you to work with heavy weights AND benefit from cardiovascularly taxing global metabolic training.

Anyway, sorry for the long post. I like your blog, and loved your Paleo videos. Keep up the great work, and let me know when you finish reading BBS. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Chris said...

With reference to Bryce's comment, one thing to try is applying this protocol to body-weight moves.

Try doing a 60 second positive, 60 second negative dip. Try the same for pushups and chins and split squats. To be vicious add in some real slow negatives after wards. The inroad is massive.

Or even just do superslow pushups and chins / bodyrows, pistols.

More and more I think the thing is effort like Clarence Bass was writing in this excellent piece .

I agree that I have been very challenged about functional training too. But I know think exercise is one thing, skill training is another ...... .and you still need skill training for life to be able to squat, run, fight etc.

Methuselah said...

AT22 - Great - look forward to comparing notes!

Bryce - thanks - glad you like the blogs! I think I need to better understand exactly the extent to which BBS is recommending failure. I have been working on the premise that provided I struggle on the final rep, even if perhaps I don't need spotting (but nevertheless do really make the set count) then this is enough.

I'm going to order a copy over the weekend.

Chris - great article and thanks for the link. The force-effort confusion seems so obvious now - yet I had not really considered it before. It's almost like a parallel in the exercise world to the calories-in-calories-out confusion that pervades the nutrition world.

As you can probably tell from the exercises I have selected, I am using some bodyweight stuff. The only reason I am not doing pistols is because of this wretched knee, which is not yet strong enough to stabilise.

Anyway, armed with the thinking on effort andn your suggestions I will give further thought to my routine whilst giving the current set of exercises a few weeks to evaluate any gains...

Don Matesz said...

Bryce said "I did really like the book, and I think it's principles can work, but unfortunately I don't think they can work with things like the deadlift, barbell squat, barbell press, etc. the HIT principle requires you to go to absolute positive muscle failure in 1 set while keeping your body supporting the weight for 90-100 seconds, but it just isn't safe to do that under a heavy barbell in a squat or press, or with deadlift. You'd need some insanely strong spotters."

Not sure if I understand your comment correctly. If you are saying that HIT requires training to failure, then holding the weight for an additional 90-100 seconds, you have a misunderstanding.

According to HIT principles, for effective strength training, the total time under load should fall in the range of 40- 120 seconds, depending on the ratio of fast to slow twitch fibers in the muscle group in question. Generally we don't recommend a static hold longer than 10 seconds at the end of a set to positive failure.

As for safety, if you have a power rack with safety bars, and mastery of exercise form, you can take squats to positive failure safely without spotters--I have done it many many times. I have also safely trained presses and deadlifts to postive failure--the key lies in maintaining strict form, which is reinforced by the controlled movement speed employed in HIT training.

Further, in the context of HIT, one does not absolutely have to take sets of squats, deads, or even presses to failure to progress. The keys to successful HIT lie in training hard on single sets, resting adequately, and making progressive incremental increases in resistance.

I have trained HIT style for more than 20 years, much of the time using barbells rather than machines, and actually prefer training this way with barbells. I have found it possible to progress regularly without training to "absolute" failure.

As for functional training, HIT is functional training. It improves the functional ability of the musculature and the individual.


Don Matesz said...


after revisiting your comment " 1 set while keeping your body supporting the weight for 90-100 seconds.." it looks like you did mean 90-100 seconds for the entire set, which does fall into the range used in HIT. Sorry I misunderstood that part of the comment.


Methuselah said...

Don - thanks for insights. As I mentioned, I am hoping to be able to train hard enough in my sets without necessarily going to failure, so it's good to hear what you describe. We shall see. More on this next week after session 2!

Jeff said...

It took me a bit to get past the 1x/wk training of BBS. In the beginning I was using too low weight and my TULs were too high. I easily did 2x/wk and increased weight and/or TUL on each exercise. That was where it got interesting for me. Once I got to a point I now simply couldn't train high intensity style twice per week. I was totally fatigued for 2 days and took me 4 days to get back to baseline. Since you want to be above baseline for at least as many days as below baseline to complete all adaptations(from what I understand...) I think it was tough to even do it once per week. I sense that once the weights and TUL are in the zone it really taps the FT fibers and recovery is hampered. I am trying to work my way out of this now by reducing volume of my WOW(Big 5->Big 3) and trying that once per week or so. If that doesn't work then I will split the routine to further reduce volume and/or increase days between workouts. I will see if I get back to getting stronger.

Fantastic blog. I have been reading PNLL for a long while and never stumbled upon this! Great stuff.